The Milwaukee Art Museum today announced the opening of a special presentation, "Art and the Global AIDS Crisis: Eggs Benedict."
"We’ve seen tremendous debate about ‘Eggs Benedict’ in the last few weeks and believe there is a great opportunity and strong need for public dialogue around the piece," said Milwaukee Art Museum director Dan Keegan. "To meet this need and further the discussion, we will display the piece now as part of a special presentation in August, rather than in November."
"Eggs Benedict" will be displayed along with didactic materials that place the piece in the context of the issues it was created to address, along with opportunities for community engagement and comment. This presentation will be on view in Baumgartner Galleria and will be clearly marked so that those that would prefer not to see the piece can avoid it.
The special presentation will also include a multidisciplinary panel discussion with voices from the artistic and religious communities who will discuss the issues around the piece including its commentary on the AIDS crisis and the role of art and religion. The panel, "Art, AIDS, Religion and Censorship," will be held on Aug. 20 at 6:15 p.m. and include:
- Brady Roberts, MAM chief curator, moderator
- Niki Johnson, artist
- Jonathan Katz, associate professor of Visual Studies, Art Department, University of Buffalo
- Jamie Manson, theologian, book editor and columnist with National Catholic Reporter
- Kali Murray, associate professor of Law at Marquette University
"When I donated this piece to the museum, I hoped it would draw attention and help shine a light on the global AIDS crisis," said Joe Pabst, the donor that gifted the piece to the museum. "I’m pleased with the decision to show the piece on its own so we can have a focused discussion of the issues it was designed to address."
"Eggs Benedict" was created by Milwaukee artist Niki Johnson in 2013 to bring awareness to the global AIDS epidemic. The artist felt compelled to make the portrait of Pope Benedict XVI after remarks he made on a trip to Africa in March of 2009 suggesting that condoms would not prevent the transmission of AIDS. Johnson developed a system using colored condoms to create an embroidered portrait of the pope. The work required 17,000 condoms and took three years to complete. For Johnson, embroidery was a deliberate choice, given that it is a craft technique used by impoverished populations where AIDS is more prevalent. The artist intended it as a catalyst for conversation about the larger issues surrounding the AIDS epidemic in Africa and among disenfranchised people.