Women Artists Lost in History Gain Place in Museums - Art and Theater - Culture

Women Artists Lost in History Gain Place in Museums – Art and Theater – Culture

For a long time reduced to the mysterious silence of the Mona Lisa, IWomen artists are still in the minority in museumsGradually, they avenge a past for which they are classified as a “muse” or “woman.”How many women are forgotten in each exhibition dedicated to Mexican Frida Kahlo or French Louise Bourgeois?

“We have to stop this refrain that they are represented as equals today,” says American historian Maura Reilly of ArtNews, a private magazine.

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“87% of the works in the 18 major museums of the USA were made by men, 85% of them white”, Art historian Katy Hessel tells AFP, citing a 2019 study by the journal Public Library Science.

Katy Hessel, 28, published “The Story of Manless Art.” A work dedicated to women artists since the Renaissance.

“Currently, all museums pay attention to equivalence, exhibitions for women artists are increasing, Tate (in London) dedicates its annual program to womenbut in reality they are underrepresented in auction houses,” he said.

As the Artprice 2022 report shows, although women under 40 are gaining in importance, “Historical sales records at Christie’s or Sotheby’s are still mostly male” Add.

one percent

Polly Staple, director of the British Art collection, told AFP that in the UK the Tate “has long been committed to improving the representation of women artists in its programs and permanent collections”.

on his side, For the first time in its history, the Royal Academy of Arts in London will present its entire field to a woman in 2023: Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic.

“Reversing the masculine canons that dominate art history is a daunting task, but I think museums can meet the challenge,” adds the British curator, admitting that there is “a lot of work to be done.”

In 2020, the Prado museum in Madrid tackled the issue with an exhibition on the female figure in art.The exhibition’s curator, Carlos Navarro, explained to AFP that “ideology” and “state propaganda on the female figure” reveal a legacy of “historical misogyny”.

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However, the initiative did not fix the representation of women in the museum. Only 335 (1%) of the 35,572 works of the institution belonged to women artists. And even more surprising, only 84 of them were available to the public, while the rest were in warehouses. The odds don’t improve in the major Paris museums.

Only 25 women are featured in the 3,600 paintings in the Louvre. The museum justified this figure “for the historical period from Antiquity to 1848” to AFP.

The Musée d’Orsay, which dedicated a large exhibition to the impressionist painter Berthe Morisot in 2019, has 2,311 works by male authors versus only 76 works by women, the institution told AFP.


Believing that “a fair history cannot be made without fair archives”, French art historian Camille Morineau founded the “Aware” association to gather information about women artists around the world.

As Katy Hessel, who uses the Aware database, reminds, these artists, such as Italian Renaissance Artemisia Gentileschi, who was the subject of a London show in 2020, were mostly “known in life, but erased over the centuries.”

Others, such as the sculptor Camille Claudel, whose work had been overshadowed by Auguste Rodin for years, were relegated to the role of muse.

“Imagining that a woman could invent something was for a long time an anthropological taboo,” predicts Camille Morineau, questioned by AFP. While curating at Center Pompidou in 2009, she took it upon herself to end this taboo.

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It set out to showcase only female artists on two floors for two years and attracted more than 2 million visitors. It was proof that there were “enough” women’s works in the museum’s reserves to tell the entire history of 20th and 21st century art.

Katy Hessel tries to follow up on this in her own way, with a podcast that promises the big female stars of contemporary art, some of them from Southern countries. Because, as she points out, if women artists set aside history, those who emerged in other cultures, such as Baya in Algeria or Georgette Chen in Singapore, “never been part of history.”


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