Art Without Men

“In France, nobody counts the number of men and women in exhibitions. Very few people notice that sometimes there are no women,” says Camille Morineau, the curator of elles@centrepompidou exhibition, to the LA Times. “Excluding men and showing only women is a revolutionary gesture of affirmative action.” Revolutionary gesture, indeed. France’s Centre Pompidou houses the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe, so the banishment of male artists for an entire year is quite an expression of solidarity with women in the art world.

Though debuting on the coattails of the successful openings of women-centered projects like the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art; the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution exhibition, which was shown throughout North America and Europe; and the web-based International Museum of Women, elles@centrepompidou is in a bit of a precarious position. On the one hand they are helping to raise the profile of female artists. On the other, if people don’t show up, the experiment could be seen as proof that women artists really aren’t as good as men. Trés tricksy, no?

The exhibition will be separated into seven major themes–pioneer, free fire, body slogan, the activist body, a room of one’s own, wordworks, and immaterials–and a variety of mediums will appear, including painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, and film. The work will be rotated to maintain a freshness for repeat viewings, and events–lectures and discussions–will accompany the display.

If you’re interested in whose work will be featured in elles@centrepompidou, here is the briefest glimpse:

Dorothea Tanning



Annette Messager



Frida Kahlo



Maria-Elena Vieira da Silva



Jenny Holzer



Cristina Iglesias



Sophie Calle

* The artwork at the top of this piece is by Barbara Kruger

by Mandy Van Deven
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5 Comments Have Been Posted

Thank you!

This is awesome! I remember going on a trip to NY with my art history class last year, and we were in MoMA and in a total of 5 hours of being at that museum, I counted four female artists. FOUR.

And then, while the other girls were shopping, my teacher graciously took me to see The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago in Brooklyn (I think it was only because I was doing my project on her...). It was actually pretty awkward on the way there...she made some weird anti-feminist comment, and I was kind of like "...oh."
But, The Dinner Party was AMAZING (though, I didn't really get a chance to see anything else...she apparently was not half as interested in the idea of feminist art as I was...)

Anyways, YAY.
I am clearly not the only person that has noticed the lack of women in exhibits.

Is it a gimmick? Will they change in the long run?

I have to admit that I'm of two minds about this. While it gives major recognition to female artists, it also seems like something of a cop-out. In some ways, I'd rather see the museum make an effort to recognize female artists more regularly, rather than as a special event. It ends up feeling oddly gimmicky to me to show only women artists. Don't get me wrong—I think this is a step in the right direction and perhaps brings the issue to light for people who haven't really thought about it—but if I was an artist (and I am to some degree—I'm a designer), I would rather my work be taken seriously in the context of common museum curation practices. I would rather see the way the system works change, rather than be thrown a a sort of one-time 'bone' in the form of a woman-only exhibit.

from what i read...

the woman who is curating this said that she's doing it as a statement about the absence of women in museums/galleries because, contrary to some outspoken figures like the guerrilla girls in the US, France doesn't have this kind of dialogue in the art world. it's just accepted that there's a meritocracy and women haven't gotten 'good enough' to reach the higher echelons. she's been trying to do something big like this for years now, and the lead up to it was obtaining pieces for the Centre by contemporary women artists. The Centre's collection has now increased to 17% women artists. So, I think she's doing both things at once: raising awareness in context and in a sort of sensational way. I'm not inclined to think this is a gimmick. Moreso, I think this is a really dedicated female curator who wants women to be recognized for their accomplishments and thinks a year w/out men in a high profile gallery will make people consider why women are absent to begin with. Since this just started, it will be interesting to know what the response is from other galleries.

Any French Bitch readers care to wager a guess?

Just another excuse for misandry...

"so the banishment of male artists for an entire year is quite an expression of solidarity with women in the art world."
No it is actually another opportunity squandered in order to give vent to feminist bigotry.
Promoting 'art' by encouraging digs at men is sex warfare which is something that victim feminism has become quite expert at and extends to several other fields not just art.

Hmmm, a silly move

Anything that increases the range of art available to us is good, so full marks for trying.

However, I think this is a foolish move. This is basically saying that the work of female artists can't stand up next to the work of men. What is this meant to change? It's going to have the opposite of the desired effect: it is going to crystallise the idea that women's art is not equal to that of men.

It also represents an 'easy way out' for the organisers. I mean, rather than work hard to find those female artists whose work deserves to be shown they have now given themselves license to display work by any woman.

And, from the artists point of view, how devaluing must that be? 'Hi mum, school was great- my picture was the best in my whole class (out of the kids with green eyes and blonde hair). No, once you include the whole class my picture was pretty average...'

Ironic that they have taken the cowardly route but somehow make themselves sound like champions!

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