Sex chair artist in Edinburgh University race discrimination case

AN ACCLAIMED artist is hauling Edinburgh University before an employment tribunal alleging racial discrimination, the Evening News can reveal.

Friday, 8th March 2019, 5:00 am
Dr Gorrill's sex chair work

The complaint relates to Dr Helen Gorrill’s stint as a tutor last year on the leading institution’s Lauriston Place campus.

Neither side in the dispute were prepared to discuss details of the complaint ahead of it being listed at the Melville Street court next week.

Contacted by the Evening News, Dr Gorrill said: “It is only a preliminary hearing. I have been advised not to speak to the press at this stage.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Papers lodged with the tribunal categorise Dr Gorrill’s allegation as “discrimination or victimisation on grounds of race or ethnic origin.”

Attracting plaudits and controversy in equal measure, Dr Gorrill specialises in feminism-inspired works.

She hit the headlines in 2009 for reportedly walking out of art school after tutors attempted to censor her degree show work.

The piece depicted women in dominant positions and men bound and subservient in an apparent reversal of a religious pamphlet.

It prompted civil rights journalist Henry Porter to write in the Guardian: “The spam I receive contains more indecency than Ms Gorrill’s work. And it is much less interesting because she makes a valid point.”

Her work has made its way into collections around the world, including the New York Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art’s digital archive.

She is one of the few UK-based artists to make it into the collection, alongside Tracey Emin.

A collection of her work sees her deface masterpieces, including paintings of William Shakespeare and Sir Christopher Wren to make them relevant to a modern audience.

In one such work, she depicts Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in a graffiti-daubed headscarf bearing the words “Stay Wild”.

Dr Gorrill was photographed next to a piece of her work entitled “Fushe Kosove Sex Cafe Chair - named after an area of Moldova from where girls are trafficked into the sex trade.

The seat was made from shackled reclaimed prosthetic limbs and male sex toys - signifying loss of innocence.

Dr Gorrill’s forthcoming book, “Women Can’t Paint: Gender, the Glass Ceiling and Values in Contemporary Art” will be published this July.

She worked as a teaching fellow in art and design at Edinburgh University from November 2017 to August 2018.

A University of Edinburgh spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”