The Royal Academy of Arts has issued a public apology to artist Jess de Wahls after removing her work from its gift shop based on a social media backlash over her views on gender and sex.
Wahls views around gender have been at the centre of a social media storm this month where de Wahls was accused of transphobia, which she denies.
The charity removed her work from its shop in response to comments made about her on social media but did not inform her directly of this decision. Instead she first heard about the move via social media.
The arts and museum charity had removed the textile artist’s work from its gift shop but has since apologised and is looking to restock her work.
“One thing is clear to us now –we should have handled this better,” said a statement from the Academy.
“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 statement adds that “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.”
In addition, the charity says it will look at our internal processes to ensure we learn from it” adding “we want to make sure we navigate this better in future”.
Wahls, who has been subject of online hate amid the row, said that the Academy’s apology is a “step in the right direction”.
Can we stop for a moment and appreciate that a major arts institution issued a public apology to me?!— JessDeWahls (@JessDeWahls) June 23, 2021
This issue isn’t going to leave the building over night, but i do believe the apology was sincere and this is a step into the right direction. It has to be.