London - IT is a film that has earned worldwide acclaim – capped by being named best picture at this year’s Oscars.
But award-winning artist Maggi Hambling begged to differ, describing 12 Years a Slave as ‘frightfully boring’ and telling an audience of fine art students that she ‘wouldn’t mind a few slaves’ herself.
The comment offended a black person in the audience and was branded a ‘despicable racist rant’ by an equal rights group.
The 68-year-old, whose work has been displayed in the National Gallery and Tate, told students at the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich that she had ‘never been so bored’ as when she sat through the movie.
‘In the end I didn’t care about the f****** slave. Anyway, slaves would be very handy. I wouldn’t mind a few,’ she added.
Mature student Jason Haye, 36, who said he was the only black person among 60 people there, is furious the university failed to take any action against the artist and has demanded an apology.
‘I know Maggi Hambling has a reputation for giving forthright opinions but her comments about slavery were inappropriate,’ Mr Haye said.
‘It was humiliating. I know she was joking about how nice it would be to have lackeys running around for her – but she said it in the context of the film.’
The third-year student created a protest video, which he posted on YouTube.
But he says staff told him to remove it in case it triggered legal action from the artist.
Mr Haye was backed by equality group Operation Black Vote, whose director, Simon Wooley, described the artist’s remarks as a ‘despicable racist rant’ in an open letter to the university.
Hambling, who was made a CBE in 2010 for her services to art, is best known for a sculpture of Oscar Wilde in central London and the Scallop, a 13ft piece on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk dedicated to Benjamin Britten.
She refused to comment yesterday, while University Campus Suffolk said it had not received an official complaint.
A spokesman added that provost Richard Lister had met Mr Haye and said the university is ‘committed to ensuring that each person is treated with dignity, respect and courtesy’.