It was perhaps to be expected that Jennifer Rubell’s new piece Ivanka Vacuuming, which is currently being staged in Washington, D.C., would cause some sort of controversy, given that it invites audience members to throw crumbs at a pink rug that is being vacuumed by a performer resembling President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter. And so here we are.
Following reports about the piece in the national press, Ivanka took to Twitter on Tuesday to address the performance. “Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up,” Trump wrote, linking to a story in the Hill. “I choose the latter.” A rep for Ivanka did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Reached by ARTnews on Tuesday, Rubell said that she had asked Trump to experience the work in person but her invitation had gone unanswered. “When she commented, I was kind of surprised,” the artist, who is based in New York, said in a phone conversation.
Rubell added that she did not intend for the work to be about Ivanka herself—rather, she saw it as a way to address notions of womanhood that surround Ivanka’s personality. “The piece explores questions to our response to a certain type of femininity, but it’s not a piece that’s aggressive toward her,” Rubell said.
Kristi Maiselman, the director of CulturalDC, the arts organization that commissioned the work and is currently hosting iterations of it, said in a statement, “CulturalDC is not only making space for art, we’re making that space accessible and engaging for participants. With that, we would welcome the opportunity to have Mrs. Trump visit the exhibit so she can see and make a judgement for herself. We would hope [Ivanka Trump] would see that Ivanka Vacuuming is relevant beyond its content because it breaks down perceived and real barriers between the artist and audience.” The organization is currently planning to host performances of the piece nightly through February 17.
Noting that Trump was responding not to the piece itself, or even to a livestream of the performance available on CulturalDC’s website, but to an article published about the work, Rubell said that Trump’s tweet was “indirect,” adding, “The world has gotten fully meta.”
This is hardly the first time the art world has addressed Trump. In 2016, shortly after Trump was elected president, the Halt Action Group started an Instagram called Dear Ivanka with the intention of raising art-world awareness of the first daughter’s collection of work by notable contemporary artists. After the account was picked up by right-wing outlets, Dear Ivanka became the subject of controversy.