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5 women-centered Art shows that you cannot miss this year.

Article by Irene Bertagnin

March is Women's History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements of women throughout history. This month-long observance provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by women, as well as the challenges that still exist, and to advocate for gender equality, which has not been fully achieved yet.

What can be said and argued about society, politics and institutions is quite always true even for the art world, which is a mirror of it. But the art field could also be a place from which one can look at society and its power structures from a different perspective, trying to challenge them.

Evidence of this is the large number of art exhibitions this year that are devoted to female artists in the major museums and galleries around the world. For centuries women were neglected by art institutions, confined to being in the shadow of men. It is time that they finally become celebrated protagonists!

The groundbreaking Guerilla Girls’ poster Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? (1989) certainly still has a lot to say and make society think about. However, we cannot deny that something is happening. Both institutions and art critics are more and more interested in re-evaluating the role of women in the art history and in the art world. It’s our role as art lovers to support this positive wave. So, here is a selection of 5 woman-centered exhibitions you must visit this year, both in the USA and in Europe.

Guerrilla Girls, Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into The Met. Museum?, 1989

The Whitechapel Gallery presents a major exhibition of 150 paintings from an overlooked generation of 80 international women artists. The purpose of the show is going beyond the predominantly white, male and USA-centered Abstract Expressionist movement, celebrating the practices of the numerous international women artists working with gestural abstraction in the aftermath of the Second World War.

You are going to admire well-known artists already associated with the Abstract Expressionism movement, such as Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), alongside lesser-known figures such as the Mozambican-Italian artist Bertina Lopes (1924-2012) and South Korean artist Wook-kyung Choi (1940-1985). It is often said that the Abstract Expressionist movement began in the USA, but this exhibition wants to bring light also the artists from all over the world, that were exploring similar themes of materiality, freedom of expression and gesture.

Wook-kyung Choi, Untitled (detail), 1960s Acrylic on canvas, 101 x 86 cm © Wook-kyung Choi Estate and courtesy to Arte Collectum.

Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the pioneers of America’s first avant-garde movement and among the greatest artists of the early 20th century. Yet, from the start, O’Keeffe suffered from the blind bias of male writers observing that her universal and visionary art gives us only “the world as it is known to women.” Also, due to her commitment to drawing, O’Keeffe was discredited as a merely decorative artist. This exhibition at the MoMA will include over 100 works on paper involving watercolor, charcoal, pencil, with the aim of acknowledging O’Keeffe not only as a proper artist, but also as one of the “fathers” of modernism.

Georgia O’Keeffe. Evening Star No. III. 1917. Watercolor on paper mounted on board, 8 7/8 × 11 7/8" (22.7 × 30.4 cm). Mr. and Mrs. Donald B. Straus Fund. © 2023 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Combining premodern and contemporary sculptural techniques with culturally connotated materials such as shells, raffia and tobacco leaves, Simone Leigh has developed a poetic body of sculptures, installations, videos that deal with issues of race, beauty, community, and care as they relate to Black women’s bodies and intellectual labor.

After the success of the U.S.A. pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale and winning the Golden Lion, Simone Leigh comes to Boston for a monographic exhibition that traces 20 years of her career, from ceramic to bronze works, from videos to installations, her works speak to a social commitment to black women who are also in the artistic sphere.

Simone Leigh: Façade, 2022. Thatch, steel, and wood, dimensions variable. Satellite, 2022. Bronze, 24 feet × 10 feet × 7 feet 7 inches (7.3 × 3 × 2.3 m) (overall). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh

The exhibition is dedicated to the painter's long Neapolitan sojourn between 1630 and 1654, a fundamental chapter in Artemisia's art and biographical story. Determined and talented, she has left her mark on the history of painting, affirming herself in an historical context completely dominated by men. The Gallerie d’Italia, in collaboration with the National Gallery and with the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, the Naples State Archives and the University of Naples, presents a careful selection of works from public, private, Italian and international collections that will make the exhibition an opportunity to update scientific studies on the artist.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Sansone e Dalila (detail), 1630-1638 ca, oil on canvas, 90,5 x 109,5 cm, Gallerie d’Italia - Napoli, Collezione Intesa Sanpaolo © Archivio Patrimonio Artistico Intesa Sanpaolo / photo Luciano Pedicini, Napoli

Sarah Bernhardt is now considered a symbol of early twentieth-century Paris. Not only an icon of beauty, but also of a powerful and influential woman. Thanks to her talent, charm, and the intrigue that revolved around her, the artist fascinated an entire generation and stimulated an almost divine worship of her. Now, a hundred years after her death, the Petit Palais brings together 400 objects that tell her exciting life story, both as a theatrical figure, through costumes, posters and paintings, and as a woman at the center of the network of leading artists and intellectuals of the time, through photographs, personal effects and even her own works of art.

Georges Clairin, Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt, 1876. Huile sur toile, 250x200 cm, Avec cadre : 275x227x9 cm Petit Palais, Paris, France. © Paris Musées - Petit Palais


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