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Antoni, Janinefree

(b Freeport, Bahamas, Jan 19, 1964).
  • Klaus Ottmann

Janine Antoni: Butterfly Kisses, Cover Girl Thick Lash mascara on paper, 756×762 mm, 1996–9 (New York, Museum of Modern Art); © Janine Antoni, photo © Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

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American performance artist and sculptor. Antoni studied sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Antoni drew attention to herself in 1993 during a performance (Loving Care) at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London where, dressed in a black catsuit, she dipped her long hair repeatedly into a bucket filled with hair dye, and using her hair as a paint brush, mopped the gallery floor on her hands and knees. Her performance was reminiscent of Yves Klein’s 1960s Anthropometries, his performative paintings created by using nude female models as paint brushes, as well as a series of the early feminist performative works by the Japanese artist Shigeku Kubota (b 1937), the so-called Vagina Paintings of 1965 in which Kubota painted on a horizontal surface using a brush that extended from her vagina. In 1993 Antoni also exhibited the photographic gender-reversing triptych Mom and Dad that depicted her actual parents cross-dressing and disguised by prosthetic make-up.

Antoni is perhaps best known for her sculptures made of chocolate or lard, which she creates by gnawing into them with her teeth, such as Gnaw (1991), and Lick and Lather (1993–4), an installation of 14 classically styled self-portrait busts, half of them moulded in chocolate and licked by the artist, the other in soap that she repeatedly lathered. In Slumber (1994), her most elaborate work, she slept during the night hours in a bed at the gallery, attached to a EEG machine that recorded her rapid eye movements, while during the day she wove a strip torn from her nightgown into the blanket she slept under at night, following the REM patterns that indicated her dream period. She continued to perform Slumber in museums and galleries, and her ‘dream blanket’ became more than 60 m long. In her later series, Up Against (2009), consisting of photographs and sculpture, Antoni extended her exploration of the female body into architecture by photographing her own body within miniature architectural models and by creating a small copper device modelled in the form of a gargoyle to be used for women to urinate standing up.

In 1998 Antoni was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and in 1999 she received the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award.


  • ‘Bridle’, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2009), pp. 84–5


  • A. Capellazzo and others: Janine Antoni (Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000)
  • The Girl Made of Butter (exh. cat. by H. Philbrick, Ridgefield, CT, Aldrich Mus. Contemp. A., 2001)