I am delighted to learn that Judy Chicago's chef d'oeuvre "The Dinner Party" is being considered by the University of the District of Columbia to be installed in a specially renovated building {Metro, July 19}. Though it has languished in a warehouse for two years, it is clear that this is an important contemporary work of art with both aesthetic and didactic qualities, which deserves to be seen and pondered.

In a 1979 book chronicling the creation of "The Dinner Party," Judy Chicago wrote: "I had been trying to establish a respect for women and women's art, to forge a new kind of art expressing women's experience, and to find a way to make that art accessible to a large audience. I firmly believed that if art speaks clearly about something relevant to people's lives, it can change the way they perceive reality."

Consisting of a table set with plates and runners and the porcelain floor beneath, "The Dinner Party" commemorates the lives of hundreds of women of influence in Western civilization, many of whom are little known. The work challenges viewers to confront the virtual exclusion of women from the conventional historical perspective, and to appreciate their contributions whether or not of a political nature. In addition, it asks us to reevaluate the importance of activity traditionally disparaged as "women's work." Indeed, Judy Chicago's choice of china-painting and needlework as the artistic media for "The Dinner Party" champions these traditionally female outlets of artistic expression.

As for the "controversy" surrounding the sexual imagery used in some of the designs, I hope the recent fallout over the Corcoran's refusal of the Mapplethorpe exhibit has chastened the Washington community into an increased tolerance for provocative (if not universally appealing) art. Undoubtedly, the work will not be to everyone's taste, but then neither was Goya's "Nude Maja" or Manet's "Dejeuner sur L'Herbe" and a host of other masterpieces in their day. Of its artistic integrity there is no question, as it meets the definition of art by constructing a dynamic of form and content.

How appropriate that such a work should find a permanent home in a university setting where individuals are encouraged to expand their intellectual horizons. Washingtonians should applaud the board of UDC for having the perspicacity to display this work, which will benefit students and the public alike. I eagerly look forward to its unveiling.