Notorious RBG at the Skirball Cultural Center

"The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" is on view through March 10, 2019

Entrance to "Notorious RBG" at the Skirball Cultural Center | Photo by Daniel Djang
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Now on view at the Skirball Cultural Center through March 10, 2019, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first-ever retrospective about the trailblazing associate justice and cultural icon. Based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name, Notorious RBG coincides with the 25th anniversary of her appointment to the Supreme Court bench and takes an entertaining yet rigorous look at her life and work—in particular her efforts to protect civil rights and expand equal opportunity for all Americans.

Shana Knizhnik, Cate Thurston and Irin Carmon at the opening of "Notorious RBG" at the Skirball Cultural Center
L to R: Shana Knizhnik, Cate Thurston and Irin Carmon at the opening of "Notorious RBG" | Photo by Daniel Djang

“With so much at stake on the Supreme Court, we encourage visitors to explore the American judicial system through the lens of one of its sharpest legal minds,” remarked Skirball curator Cate Thurston, who developed the exhibition with the book’s authors: journalist Irin Carmon, a senior correspondent at New York magazine; and attorney Shana Knizhnik, who founded the Tumblr that made RBG an Internet sensation (and even amused Justice Ginsburg herself).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School, 1972
Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School, 1972. Courtesy of Columbia Law School.

Featuring archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, media stations, gallery interactives, and contemporary art, the exhibition spans RBG’s life from student to lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and online phenomenon.

Section titles throughout "Notorious RBG" feature Biggie's lyrics
Section titles throughout "Notorious RBG" feature Biggie's lyrics | Photo by Daniel Djang

Inspired by Carmon and Knizhnik’s book, the exhibition playfully highlights the connection between Justice Ginsburg and the Notorious B.I.G.—both of whom were born and bred in Brooklyn, as RBG herself has proudly pointed out. With permission from Biggie's estate, section titles and other exhibition elements reference songs and lyrics by the late hip-hop legend, such as “I GOT A STORY TO TELL" (RBG's early life and education), “STEREOTYPES OF A LADY MISUNDERSTOOD” (RBG as activist) and “MY TEAM SUPREME” (her Supreme Court nomination).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's childhood apartment is recreated for "Notorious RBG" at the Skirball
A recreation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's childhood apartment in Brooklyn | Photo by Daniel Djang

Throughout the exhibit, there are 3D recreations of key places in RBG’s life, such as her childhood Brooklyn apartment, where visitors can flip through her beloved Nancy Drew books and get a feel for her Jewish upbringing.

Sit behind the desk in RBG's chambers at "Notorious RBG"
Sit behind the desk in RBG's chambers | Photo by Daniel Djang

Visitors can also sit behind a simulation of RBG's desk in her chambers, and view the 2018–19 Supreme Court calendar to see what cases will be decided by the justices in the near term.

Dress up in a robe and jabot for a "supreme" selfie at "Notorious RBG"
Dress up in a robe and jabot for a "supreme" selfie | Photo by Daniel Djang
Take a seat on the Supreme Court bench at "Notorious RBG"
Take a seat on the Supreme Court bench at "Notorious RBG" | Photo by Daniel Djang
Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, May 21, 2018
Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, May 21, 2018. Sketch by Art Lien.

Ten listening stations let visitors hear RBG’s delivery of oral arguments, majority opinions, and forceful dissents in landmark Supreme Court cases such as:

  • US v. Virginia (regarding male-only admissions of the Virginia Military Institute)
  • Bush v. Gore (regarding the 2000 US Presidential election)
  • Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (regarding pay discrimination)
  • Shelby County v. Holder (regarding voting rights)
RBG and Marty Ginsburg travel to Paris, 1988
RBG and Marty travel to Paris, 1988. Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Collection.

RBG’s marriage to Martin “Marty” Ginsburg, her partner of more than fifty years, is celebrated through family snapshots and other materials from their life together, including their home kitchen and some of Marty’s favorite recipes and cooking utensils. Spoiler alert: you're going to tear up after reading Marty's final handwritten letter to RBG.

Costume worn by RBG for her cameo in Donizetti’s "The Daughter of the Regiment"
Costume worn by RBG for her cameo in Donizetti’s "The Daughter of the Regiment" | Photo by Daniel Djang

In November 2016, RBG - a longtime opera fan - made a cameo appearance as the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Gaetano Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment at the Kennedy Center. RBG's costume from that cameo is on display at the Skirball.

"Dissent Collars" and "Self-Portrait" by Roxana Alfer Geffen at "Notorious RBG"
"Dissent Collars" and "Self-Portrait" by Roxana Alfer Geffen | Photo by Daniel Djang

A final section showcases RBG-inspired art by artists such as Roxana Alfer Geffen, Maira Kalman and Ari Richter, as well as a costume designed by Isis Mussenden and worn by Felicity Jones in the forthcoming feature film On the Basis of Sex, based on the true story of a young RBG.

"Notorious RBG" at Skirball Cultural Center
"Notorious RBG" | Photo courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now on view at the Skirball Cultural Center through March 10, 2019. Entry is included with paid admission to the museum. After its run at the Skirball, Notorious RBG will travel to several U.S. cities through 2022.

Docent-led tours of the exhibit will take place at the Skirball on Tuesday–Friday, 1:00–2:00 p.m.; and Saturday–Sunday, noon–1:00 and 1:00–2:00 p.m.

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles 90049
(310) 440-4500