All Women Museums & Exclusivity In The Art World

In 1985, after MOMA’s show “An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture” included the work of only 13 women out of the over 150 pieces, the collective Guerrilla Girls was founded. Women artists bound together, donned masks, and took to the streets to protest. They papered SoHo with posters, and disrupted crowds outside of galleries.

Fast-forward 30 years, and have things gotten better for the female artist?

[no title] 1985-90 Guerrilla Girls null Purchased 2003 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78815

Just a few days ago, one of Pussy Riot’s founding members, Maria Alyokhina, declared that she would start “New Balkan Women’s Museum in Montenegro: a museum for women, by women, about women. It will employ only female curators and administrators and show only female artists.” While it’s undeniably important to showcase women’s art, is this — a women’s only museum —  what the Guerrilla Girls were fighting for in the ’80s?


Like everything, there’s a history behind all women exhibitions and museums. Beyond that, contemporary artists like Marina Abramovic and Sarah Wilson have even created spaces where every viewer is a woman. Having space for women and women alone in the art world is evidently something worthwhile, but it shouldn’t be the entire goal.

What the Guerrilla Girls fought for — and still fight for — is recognizing art by women as equal to art by men. Creating specific spaces for women’s art can help with this, but it also creates the label of “female” before “art.” Where men’s art is simply “art,” a women’s art, especially when it’s within it’s own space, will be “female art.” There’s nothing wrong with the label, but should it be inherent to the art?


The art world is broken; it was broken and it’s still broken. But when it comes to fixing it, there’s two main ideas of how to do so. Succinctly put by the Guerrilla Girls, “some of us wanted a piece of the pie, some of us wanted to blow the pie up.” Which one is correct? A systematic change slowly prompted by showing statistics and changing minds, or creating a whole new sphere of art where women immediately dominate?

There’s no blueprint to change, no plans to revolution: it just happens. Perhaps the New Balkan Women’s Museum is a step to something that started 30 years ago; perhaps it isn’t. But progress, although slow, is happening.

Images via ArtNews and Guerrilla Girls.

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