U.S. Museum Coalition Plans Exhibitions of Female Artists Ahead of 19th Amendment Centennial and 2020 Presidential Election

  • November 06, 2019 11:56

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In the upcoming Judy Chicago retrospective at the de Young Museum, Judy Chicago (b. 1939), "The Fall", from the series "Holocaust Project", 1993. Modified Aubusson tapestry, 54 x 216 in. (137.2 x 548.6 cm). Weaving by Audrey Cowan. Collection of the Museum of Arts & Design, New York. © Judy Chicago / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph © Donald Woodman / ARS, NY Image provided courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
At the National Portrait Gallery “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” exhibition, Votes for Women, B.M. Boye 1913. Lithograph Sheet. The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.
At MFA Boston, Katharine Lane Weems, Striding Amazon. Modeled in 1926 and 1980; cast in 1981. Bronze, brown patina, lost wax cast. Gift of Katharine Lane Weems. Reproduced with permission. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
On November 5, election day across the U.S., a new website launched as a platform to help promote women artists in museum exhibitions nationwide. Feminist Art Coalition is the brainchild of Apsara DiQuinzio, the senior curator of Modern and contemporary art at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, who developed the idea with other curators after the 2016 election.

The mission of the still-forming coalition states online: "Working collectively, various art museums and nonprofit institutions from across the United States will present a series of concurrent events—including commissions, exhibitions, performances, talks, and symposia—over the course of three months (September–November) in the fall of 2020, during the run-up to the next presidential election. This strategic endeavor takes feminist thought and practice as its point of departure and considers art as a catalyst for discourse and civic engagement."

With the looming centennial of the 19th amendment, which was ratified in 1920 and granted U.S. women the right to vote, a number of museums have already begun related exhibitions. The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, has on view more than 120 portraits and objects spanning 1832 to 1965 that explore the American suffrage movement and the political challenges women have faced. Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence continues through January 5, 2020.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has installed the entire third floor of its Art of the Americas Wing with approximately 200 artworks made by women over the last 100 years—a “takeover” that aims to challenge the dominant history of art from 1920 to 2020 and shine a light on some of the many talented and determined women artists who deserve attention. Women Take the Floor is open through May 3, 2021.

Coming up, Judy Chicago: A Retrospective, from May 9 through September 5, 2020, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, along with Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, from March 21 to July 26, 2020, will show works by two pioneering women artists in major solo exhibitions.

At BAMPFA, DiQuinzio is organizing New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century, a major survey exploring recent feminist practices in contemporary art, from August 26, 2020 to January 21, 2021.

Participating institutions, so far, in the coalition also include Brooklyn Museum, Seattle Art Museum, ICA Boston, the Menil Collection Houston, and dozens more.

But will museums keep up this female focus beyond 2020? A recent study conducted by artnet and In Other Words states that works by women constituted just 11 percent of acquisitions and 14 percent of exhibitions at 26 major American museums between 2008 and 2018. In addition, women represent just 2 percent of the global art market, accounting for $4 billion of the more than $196.6 billion spent at art auctions between 2008 and May 2019.



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