Today is International Museum Day, and as I get in front of the computer to write this post my head starts going at 100 mph. What a fascinating topic to speak about! So many things that need to be addressed!
My favourite one lately is ArtActivismBarbie, a twitter account and initiative started by Sarah Williamson, a feminist, activist and qualitative researcher at the University of Huddersfield, who is on a mission to highlight in the way museums are dealing with women. From the lack of women painters (21 pieces against 2300 in the National Galleries) to the way women are represented to please men - constantly sexually objectified - and with a mandatory focus on the way women are described as daughter, wife, daughter in the descriptions. There is nothing Barbie can't address with her modus operandi "small signs, big questions and a fabulous wardrobe". Treat yourself by reading this article and following her for thought (and smile) provoking posts!
But as her own article states, this is not new... the Guerrilla girls were born in 1985 wearing gorilla masks in public and they use facts, humour and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture.
They use art, symbolism and activism to fight the art world itself, making crystal clear points, sadly as relevant today as they were 35 years ago.
This is probably one of their most famous pieces, and they keep updating it, with still annoying results!
This one reminds me of how "Love the art, hate the artist" excuse has been used for ages when in reality we live a "praise the art and the artist and hide or romanticise everything else" reality.
Silence is the biggest ally of injustice. We can respect, even love, the art, but we need to make the person behind it accountable and use them as a public example of how we, as a society, refuse to praise and forget. Art should be educational on all levels.
I don't want to be the bitch that ruins the party writing a critical article about museums on their day (or do I?) but it is more than evident that they have a lot of work to do to keep up with the times; and like patriarchy itself, they need to be fixed on so many levels: from "The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships", to the number of women's pieces of art, or solo exhibitions; to the way they describe women artists and the women portrayed in men's paintings, to the way we forget to make "artists" accountable for their sins under the excuse of the importance of their art. Because museums, like anything else, are severely stained with misogyny.
Feminism has different ways to address unfairness, sometimes it's a conversation, sometimes is a tiny sign, other times a massive billboard. Each of those times is about awareness, about changing things and putting the spotlight on what for so long has been hidden under the carpet, it's about putting a stop to those perpetuated wrongs.
So just in case this wasn't enough material to get you in arms and start spreading the F word every time you go to a museum or the topic comes up in a casual conversation, I want to also leave you with 3 beautiful articles that I loved reading.
Fascinating article about Gabrielle Munten in the context of a dedicated exposition to her work, as an artist, and not only through the lens of her relationship with Kandinski.
The whole article is really interesting, but this paragraph made me pause to let it in. It is one of those obvious realities that we never stop to realise, I am not surprised by it, just amazed at how evident yet unspoken it is.
History, of course, tends to take for granted that women have been influenced by the men in their lives while the very same men aren’t seen as having been influenced by these women. Viewing art has tended toward the same effect: lonely men are “lone geniuses” while lonely women, those who devote themselves to their art at the expense of love or family, are “art monsters.”
Really good article, inspired by the question the historian Linda Nochlin asked in an article in 1971. Lots of food for thought while doing 5 case studies of women's art.
A quick overview on women in art throughout history.
Have a happy feminist museum day everyone! :)