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GWA Newsletter February #2
From debates over labelling artworks in galleries to all the art you need to see this week!
Dear Great Women Art Lovers!
I hope you are well. I’m writing to you from my new writing room at the Tracey Emin Artist Studios in Margate, where I’ll be in and out throughout the year as I attempt to write more, including, of course, this Substack.
OK. First up—New Yorkers! I’m so excited to say that we will kick off the US tour for The Story of Art without Men in NYC by launching the book at the iconic Strand Bookstore. Come down on Tuesday 2 May, 7pm, to hear me and the legendary Jerry Saltz in conversation. Get your tickets here, and get them quick!
This week, I wrote my column for the Guardian on a topic close to my heart: why do we still define women artists by their male counterparts, and will the narrative ever change?
When only 1% of the National Gallery’s collection is made up of art by women; when a work by a woman goes for just 10% of that by a man; what does this say about the state of art today? Have a read.
"The imbalance in art acts as a microcosm for the way we place value on genders in society. And it highlights the amount of work that needs to be done … at The National Gallery, I found that of the shockingly low six works on view by women in the entire museum, two mention male artists in their 50-word labels ... There are only nine female artists in the entire collection…”
The article sparked a conversation on my Instagram. But I want to open it up here, too. What are your thoughts, and what do you think it’s going to take to make this change? I am also aware that this argument applies to many professions, not just art.
Last week, I shared some more articles for paid Substack subscribers:
A Q&A with me and my favourite author, Ali Smith. A highlight:
KH: Why is it important to put artists at the centre of times of political conflict?
AS: History will skewer us or send us in circles or disappear us. Art does not do that. It’s about our presence in the world. It’s about the life in us. And it also allows us to be, as we stand in front of it, in dialogue with it. Whether we love it or hate it, we ’re in dialogue with something and we can be both objective and subjective at once with it, which is a force of vitality in itself.
KH: Do you think there’s a responsibility for writers or artists to chronicle moments in history, such the pandemic?
AS: No, it’s not a responsibility, it just is a fact. If you don’t write about it, you’re writing about something else, which will also tell you about what it’s like to live through this time because art is porous, and whenever it’s made, it speaks of its time whether we are speaking of this time kind of consciously or blatantly or not. It simply holds its time in it anyway.
A letter to Alice Neel by Hilton Als; a biography of John Donne by Katherine Rundell; Ruth Ozeki’s Timecode of a Face; a new book on Diane Arbus, and much more. I’m planning next month’s – I should really just make these weekly – which will include some incredible episodes of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso. Check out conversations with Hilton Als, Lena Dunham, Ethan Hawke, and more. It’s so good!
To get us in the mood for film season, later this week I’ll be sharing My Top 10 Art Documentaries (+ analyses) for paid subscribers. Come over and sign up now!
Looking ahead, don’t miss this year’s WOW Festival at the Southbank Centre, in conjunction with International Women’s Day. On Sunday 12 March, 12pm, I’ll be discussing my book with the brilliant author, Kate Mosse! Tickets here.
This Thursday I will be BACK at the incredible Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle for the fourth (but by no means final) time to discuss the life, work and legacy of Neel. Tickets are sold out, but catch mine, Olivia Laing, Hilton Als and Eleanor Nairne’s takes on Neel for AnOther Magazine.
And last Thursday, we hosted the second Art/Lit Salon at the London Library with Celia Paul and Edmund de Waal who very movingly discussed letter writing (one of my favourite art forms), the power of ‘life research’ (not just academic research), their family connections, memoir, and more. I’ll share the transcript when it’s ready!
That’s all from me — onto 5 of your top 5s.
5 Shows in Britain
5 Shows Overseas
Hurly-Burly: Phyllida Barlow, Rachel Whiteread, Alison Wilding at Gagosian, Paris (until 4 March)
María Berrío at ICA Boston (until 6 August)
Parall(elles): A History of Women in Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal (until 28 May)
Senga Nengudi at Dia Beacon, New York (long term exhibition)
Sofonisba Anguissola at Rijksmuseum, Twenthe (until 11 June)
5 Things to Read
Profile of Wangechi Mutu by Aruna D’Souza for the New York Times
Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz with an introduction by Olivia Laing
Hilton Als and Cy Gavin on on Surveillance, Sequoias, and Self-Preservation for Interview Magazine
Lizaveta German on ‘The Guard of the Ukrainian “Sixtiers”’ and Alla Horska for Ursula
Maria de Knuijt, Vermeer’s woman patron in the Art Newspaper
(Sign up to receive my monthly newsletter: What everyone should read now)
5 Artists Discovered
Lyons's paintings put a magnifying glass on moments of girlhood. Her women, on the cusp of adolescence and trying things out for the very first time, are swept up in an atmospheric mood that, to me, allude to film stills that catch those tender moments. It's as though I can hear a soundtrack when confronted with her work.
Michelle Olivier (birthdate unknown)
Olivier’s practice addresses her upbringing in the UK as well as her family’s migration from India in the 1950s: “I make work that I would have liked to have seen when I was growing up, representing something about my identity…”. Her work is included inside the brand new South Asia Gallery at the Manchester Museum.
Miller shares glimpses into her world through her paintings of everyday life as she sees it: “These pieces are a labor of love for Black mothers in my life and for those who were not able to provide love in the ways needed.”
Thomas worked for over five decades making Abstract Expressionist work during the height of the movement. She studied at the Arts Student League in New York and was a member of the scene participating in key exhibitions of the time. For Thomas, colour was the “strongest joy and enigma.” See her work at the Whitechapel show ‘Action, Gesture, Paint’ now.
Manno is trained in traditional Byzantine Russian iconography and has combined her passion for the environment with her academic training through her art. In this series Manno creates wooden panel “icons” for various plants and animals which are either on the brink of extinction or already lost.
5 Things to Do
23 February: Jennifer Higgie and Donna Huddleston in conversation at Simon Lee Gallery
24 February: Tate Late in celebration of Magdalena Abakanowicz at Tate Modern
2 March: Panel discussion on Image As Protest with Joy Gerrard, Ingrid Swenson and Nick Willing chaired by Hettie Judah at Cristea Roberts
8 March: Screening of Mary Cassatt: Painting the Modern Woman in cinemas around the UK
10-12 March: Women of the World Festival at the Southbank (come down on Sunday 12 March, 12pm, to hear me and Kate Mosse discuss all things women artists!)
That’s it from us! Happy GWA’ing. Thank you for reading this Substack. To receive additional content, and support this page, sign up to be a paid subscriber:
If you think someone else might enjoy this too, please spread the word and share this article. If you have any feedback – or any reads, films, shows you’re loving right now – please comment below. See you next time!
This newsletter is brought to you by Katy Hessel + Viva Ruggi. Here’s a Tracey Emin neon lighting up yesterday’s dusk in Margate: “I never stopped loving you”