In one of her final moves before her husband Bill de Blasio ceded his role as New York City mayor to the newly elected Eric Adams, Chirlane McCray joined the city’s Department of Correction last week in announcing that a painting by Faith Ringgold will move from its decades-long home on Rikers Island to the Brooklyn Museum, pending a review by the NYC Public Design Commission.
For the Women’s House, which shows women at work in fields ranging from medicine and public transportation to policing and professional basketball, was dedicated to the Correctional Institution for Women on Rikers Island in 1972. Later, when men moved into the facility in the ’80s, it was whitewashed before being saved by an officer, after which point the painting was restored and relocated to a new women’s facility, where it has remained ever since.
With aims to close the notorious jail complex on Rikers Island by 2027, DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said in a statement, “While we rightly move off Rikers, there is much history to remember and reflect upon. Bringing this piece into public view is an important part of learning and growing from this history. We thank Faith Ringgold who dedicated her talents to offer a bit of beauty in an otherwise difficult place.”
Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum, said her institution is “thrilled to have one of Faith Ringgold’s most iconic paintings return to our care”—referring to its previous inclusion in the Brooklyn Museum’s 2017 exhibition “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85.” Pasternak continued, “We are excited to share it with millions of people locally and around the globe and engage them in dialogues about this groundbreaking artist’s work and themes of mass incarceration, women’s equality, the artistic movements of the 1970s, and more.”
To replace the mural in its longtime home, the Art for Justice Fund—an enterprise led by arts patron Agnes Gund with a mission statement focused on “ending mass incarceration and underlying racial bias”—will offer funds for a new work to go in its place. In the city’s press release, Gund said, “I am pleased to know that Faith Ringgold’s important painting will be moved to a permanent home with the Brooklyn Museum, at the artist’s request. It is my fervent hope we will all see Rikers Island shuttered, and everyone incarcerated and working there soon relocated to a safer and more positive environment.”