The Royal Academy of Arts has apologised to artist Jess de Wahls after arbitrarily removing her work from its gift shop over her alleged “transphobic” statements.
The Royal Academy of Arts had removed the embroidery work of textile artist Jess de Wahls after receiving backlash for comments she had made in a blog in 2019 about gender and sex. Two years back, De Wahls had said that she could not accept people’s “unsubstantiated assertions that they are in fact the opposite sex to when they were born”, sparking a controversy.
Subsequently, the RA had released a statement saying her opinion was in conflict with its own diversity, equality and inclusion principles and decided to remove her work for their stores. De Wahls’s comments led to accusations of transphobia, which the artist had denied.
In an interview recently, De Wahls had said she would consider legal action if she did not receive an apology.
Even as the textile artist considered suing the Royal Academy, they have issued an apology to De Wahls, saying that they had erred in removing her artwork for her alleged transphobic views.
In a statement on Wednesday morning, the Royal Academy said, “There has been a great deal of debate around the RA’s recent communication about no longer stocking the work of Jess de Wahls in the Royal Academy shop. We have thought long and hard since then about this and the wider issues it raises.
An apology from the Royal Academy: https://t.co/U6Hw090gWW
— Royal Academy (@royalacademy) June 23, 2021
“One thing is clear to us now – we should have handled this better. We have apologised to Jess de Wahls for the way we have treated her and do so again publicly now. We had no right to judge her views on our social media. This betrayed our most important core value – the protection of free speech,” the Royal Society of Art said in its apology to Jess de Wahls.
Further, the Royal Academy of Arts said, “There was also a failure of communications internally which resulted in Jess de Wahls first hearing via social media that we would no longer stock her product in the RA shop. We will now reopen discussions with her regarding the restocking of her work.”
The statement added that Royal Academy Art would continue to reflect on this and look at their internal processes to ensure they learn from their mistakes. We want to make sure we navigate this better in future, the statement added.