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Nettling the bien pensants of the London art world

Clare with a few of her “controversial” pots

There are few things more unsettling to the “decolonised dinner party bores who run the art world”, says Jo Bartosch in The Critic, than a “61-year-old lesbian who, in her own words, ‘has fuck all left to lose’”. The ceramicist Claudia Clare makes exquisite pots that tell “unpopular stories”, daring to mock illiberal leftists’ “trinity of acclaim” for Islamism, prostitution and gender identity. In 2009, as a Farsi speaker with an adopted Iranian family, she was invited to exhibit a collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Isfahan. She soon “got under the beards of the Ayatollahs”, and they withdrew her visa.

But the same year, she began to experience similar disapproval in Britain. When a curator in a London gallery became noticeably “nervous”, Clare eventually teased out of her that she was “terrified that a big, hairy, scary Muslim man might get upset”, because one of the pieces was about hymen reconstruction among women in the UK. The exhibition was so popular it was extended – and not one Muslim complained. In fact, several Turkish women told her it was the “first time they felt connected to a work of art”. But the bien pensants of the London art world were appalled. It’s crazy. Clare’s feminist view – that no woman deserves to be “disappeared” under a veil or reduced to merely an object of male desire – puts her “beyond the bounds of decency” by which most public galleries abide.

🗿🏺 Ironically, Clare was an early supporter of “decolonisation” and learning about the cultures and people “buried under inaccurate, colonialist labels”. She remembers visiting galleries and gazing perplexed at Egyptian pots accompanied by just a date and a “British bloke’s name.” But what was once well intentioned has descended into “lifeless box-ticking” and “pious lecturing.”