Fifty U.S. Museums Champion Feminist Art Ahead of 2020 Election

Curators are banding together to organize feminism-inspired exhibitions and events in fall 2020

Judy Chicago painting Feminist Art Coalition
A retrospective centered on artist Judy Chicago is one of the many Feminist Art Coalition exhibitions slated for fall 2020. Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

After President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, curator Apsara DiQuinzio experienced a sentiment shared by many women in the United States. As DiQuinzio, senior curator of modern and contemporary art at California’s Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), tells the Art Newspaper’s Jori Finkel, “[I felt] this urgent need to do something.”

Now, Finkel reports, the curator is leading a grassroots campaign aimed at coordinating feminist art exhibitions and events across the country in the months leading up to the 2020 election.

The project, called the Feminist Art Coalition (FAC), officially launched on November 5. Per the FAC’s website, which went live on Election Day 2019, the coalition—currently made up of some 50 museums and nonprofit institutions but expected to grow over the next year—will present commissions, exhibitions, performances, talks and symposia between September and November 2020. The “strategic endeavor,” according to the group’s about page, aims to prompt social change.

“We thought it would be good to create a cultural groundwork where important conversations relating to gender and politics could take place within art institutions in a thoughtful, strategic way in the lead up to the 2020 election,” DiQuinzio tells artnet News’ Sarah Cascone.

Participating institutions are geographically diverse, ranging from New York City’s Brooklyn Museum to Houston’s Lawndale Art Center and Chicago’s Renaissance Society. The slate of exhibitions and events planned for next fall is similarly diverse: San Francisco’s de Young Museum will hold a retrospective dedicated to pioneering feminist artist Judy Chicago, for instance, while the Spruance Gallery in Glenside, Pennsylvania, will focus on female printmakers active during the 1940s and ‘50s. As Sarah Rose Sharp reports for Hyperallergic, the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery is set to devote its entire space to FAC artwork, including an experimental essay film by duo Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell (known collectively as Bambitchell) and a site-specific installation by Math Bass.

DiQuinzio kickstarted the campaign with funds from a $50,000 curatorial grant awarded by the Warhol Foundation in 2017. Cascone writes that DiQuinzio used this money to organize a three-day colloquium for female curators and museum leaders in April 2018.

“The project is specifically intended to encourage feminist discourse and increase awareness of how feminist goals seek to benefit all of society,” Anne Ellegood, a colloquium participant and director of the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, says to artnet News.

The coalition hopes to take its mission beyond museum walls. In addition to planning exhibitions and events, the FAC will curate a feminist art reading list and continue publishing Notes on Feminisms, a series of newly commissioned essays exploring feminist issues each author “considers urgent.”

Although the project centers on feminism, DiQuinzio tells Hyperallergic that FAC isn’t “meant to be only female projects, at all.”

“It’s super gender-equivalent,” the curator adds. “It’s a project that’s inspired by feminism, or feminist-oriented or -inspired initiatives, and we’re letting each organization define that for themselves.”

The Feminist Art Coalition arrives at a key point in ongoing discussions surrounding gender parity in museums: This September, a joint investigation conducted by artnet News and In Other Words revealed that between 2008 and 2018, works by women constituted just 11 percent of acquisitions and 14 percent of exhibitions at 26 major U.S. museums.

“The excuses people give really tells us a lot about the power of art and the difficulty people have with change,” Susan Fisher Sterling, director of Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, said to the report’s authors at the time. “We are lulled into a sense that parity is being achieved faster than we think, but those myths reflect the status quo.”

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