Fact Check

The Meat Dress

A dress made out of meat?

Published Aug 13, 2007

Claim:   A dress made of rotting meat was displayed as a work of art in the National Gallery in Ottawa, Canada.

Status:   True.

Origins:   For those who missed all the sizzle or didn't understand what was at steak, I've sliced off some excerpts from a 1991 newspaper article which pretty much cuts to the shank of it. Er, lean-trimmed to make this easier on your diet:

Unusual and unrefrigerated, Jana Sterbak's meat dress, 50 pounds of raw flank steaks stitched

Meat the artist

together and displayed on a hanger at the National Gallery, is causing a cultural flap in Canada.

Entitled "Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic," the exhibit was created by Montreal artist Sterbak to emphasize the contrast between vanity and bodily decay.

It also underlines the contrast between people willing to recognize it as art, and those who would rather take their meat at mealtimes.

Reminiscent of recent clashes between U.S. politicians over the limits of artistic taste, the dress has drawn as much general attention as any Canadian work of art in years.

The reaction was strong.Two hundred people mailed food scraps to Canada's most popular fine arts museum last week to protest the new show.

But most people who have seen it say it's legitimate art.

Yet another prime cut, this one from closer to the bone, comes from another 1991 article:


sculpture of a dress made of raw meat, hanging at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, has outraged politicians and food-aid agencies. The sculpture,
made of 50 pounds of salted flank steak, is a waste of food and taxpayers' money, critics say. But museum curators defend the work, "Vanitas," as a graphic reminder of mortality and the aging process.

"It's a powerful piece," Helen Murphy, a museum spokeswoman, said yesterday. "It can be quite repugnant, even to people who eat meat. People just aren't prepared in some cases to say this is art."

The meat dress by Montreal artist Jana Sterbak is on a hanger beside a photo of a woman wearing it. When the meat decomposes after six weeks, it will be replaced with another $260 worth of fresh meat. "Vanitas," on display since March 8, will remain until May 20 before traveling to the United States and Europe.

Barbara "flank, shank or prank — I ain't wearing it" Mikkelson

Last updated:   13 August 2007


  Sources Sources:

    Rowley, Storer.   "A Raw Meat Dress Stakes Its Claim As an Object of Art."

    Chicago Tribune.   14 April 1991   (p. C1).

    The Washington Times.   "Political Art Critics Fed More Raw Meat."

    4 April 1991   (p. A2).