Baltimore Museum of Art Dedicates a Year of Exhibitions and Programs to Women Artists

  • BALTIMORE, Maryland
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  • August 07, 2019

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Unidentified artist, child's bonnet, late 19th century, Lakota, Sioux.
The Baltimore Museum of Art

2020 Marks the 100th Anniversary of Women Getting the Right to Vote in the U.S.

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has announced 2020 Vision, a year of exhibitions and programs dedicated to the presentation of the achievements of female-identifying artists. The initiative will encompass 13 solo exhibitions and seven thematic shows beginning in fall 2019, with additional presentations still being planned. Highlights include a large-scale transformative commission by Mickalene Thomas, a major monographic survey of Joan Mitchell’s career, an exploration of Candice Breitz’s video works, and the reinstallation of several of the museum’s galleries to emphasize the depth and diversity of women’s artistry through time. These presentations will be supported by a wide range of public and scholarly programs that will foster dialogue on women’s contributions to art history and the development of many of the artistic institutions that we know today.

The initiative is part of the BMA’s ongoing implementation of its broader vision to address race and gender diversity gaps within the museum field, and to represent more fully and deeply the spectrum of individuals that have shaped the trajectory of art. 2020 Vision builds on the BMA’s efforts over the last several years to expand its presentations of women artists and artists of color, and to more accurately reflect the community in which it lives. It also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, ratified on August 18, 1920, which guaranteed women in the U.S. the right to vote.

Mickalene Thomas, Din, une très belle négresse (2012). Jiménez-Colón Collection, Ponce, PR. © Mickalene Thomas / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“The BMA’s 2020 Vision initiative serves to recognize the voices, narratives, and creative innovations of a range of extraordinarily talented women artists. The goal for this effort is to rebalance the scales and to acknowledge the ways in which women’s contributions still do not receive the scholarly examination, dialogue, and public acclaim that they deserve,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “This vision and goal are especially appropriate, given the central role women have played in shaping this museum throughout its history.”

The BMA will begin implementing 2020 Vision in fall 2019 with a series of thematic exhibitions and a major commission. By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists will feature works by Elizabeth Catlett, Maria Martinez, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others who contributed to major art movements of the 20th century from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism. Several of these artists—including Simone Brangier Boas, Grace Hartigan, and Amalie Rothschild—were based in Baltimore during their careers. This is followed by the late November opening of a largescale installation by internationally acclaimed artist Mickalene Thomas. This site-specific work for the inaugural Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Biennial Commission will transform the BMA’s two-story East Lobby into a living room for the city with new wallpapers, furnishings, and prints by Thomas. In December, the museum will open Free Form: 20th-Century Studio Craft and Adorned: African Women & the Art of Identity. Free Form presents works by innovative embroidery, ceramic, and jewelry artists such as Mariska Karasz and Baltimore-based artists Gloria Balder Katzenberg and Betty Cooke. Adorned features two dozen works that demonstrate the critical role of 20th century African women in shaping and maintaining social identities through objects created in clay, cloth, and beads.

Joan MItchell, Bracket (1989). Courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The BMA’s 2020 Vision initiative will be in full swing by March 2020, when a selection of powerful videos by internationally acclaimed artist Candice Breitz are presented in the special exhibition galleries. The South African born artist creates moving socio-political narratives that address the lives of immigrants, the rights of sex workers, and other topics that reflect human rights concerns. The exhibition will focus on two major video works: TLDR (2017) and Love Story (2016).

In September 2020, the BMA presents Joan Mitchell: Fierce Beauty, a comprehensive retrospective of works by the renowned American artist. The exhibition will explore the full arc of Mitchell’s artistic practice—from her exceptional New York paintings in the early 1950s to the majestic, large-scale multi-panel works made in France later in her career. Rarely shown paintings and works on paper from public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe will reveal the artist’s inner landscape—experience, sensation, and memory—expressed with an intensely athletic grace.

Every gallery in the BMA’s Contemporary Wing will also be in alignment with 2020 Vision. This includes a newly commissioned work by German artist Katharina Grosse, as well as focused solo exhibitions of works by Sharon Lockhart, Ana Mendieta, Howardena Pindell, Tschabalala Self, and Lisa Yuskavage, and Baltimore-based artists Grace Hartigan, Valerie Maynard, and Jo Smail. On the first floor of the museum, Ellen Lesperance: Velvet Fist will present a suite of seven exquisite paintings from the artist’s ongoing Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp series shown with her Congratulations and Celebrations Sweater participatory project.

In summer 2020, the BMA will present a selection of beaded works created by 19th-century Lakota women who subversively incorporated the American flag and other patriotic iconography into traditional Native American designs. It is joined by several thematic exhibitions drawn from the BMA’s collection, including presentations that feature historic and contemporary works by male artists that emphasize the essential roles of women. With a working title of African Art and the Matrilineage, this exhibition is the first in the United States to propose maternal power as an activating and vital force at work in African art during the 19th through mid-20th centuries.

Women Behaving Badly is the working title for a thematic exhibition about representations of female power and protest in European and American art. From mythic and biblical heroines to femme fatales and witches, the show foregrounds the stories of intellectuals, entertainers, and activists who rebelled against the traditional roles of wife and mother. Additionally, the extraordinary legacy of former BMA director Adelyn Breeskin, who arranged the Cone Collection bequest for the museum and commissioned the U.S. Pavilion for the 1960 Venice Biennale, will be celebrated with some of her key acquisitions as well as archival materials.


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