Whitechapel Gallery curator hopes all-female show will be 'defiant riposte' to Trump winning US election

Photography exhibition scheduled for next year is drawn from the collection of Washington D.C’s National Museum of Women in the Arts

by Anny Shaw  |  15 November 2016
Whitechapel Gallery curator hopes all-female show will be 'defiant riposte' to Trump winning US election
Hellen van Meene, Untitled (68, 1999)
Continuing its focus on female artists, the Whitechapel Gallery in East London is scheduled to present next year an exhibition of photographs by 17 women drawn from the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Announcing the show the day after Donald Trump was elected US president on 8 November, the curator Lydia Yee said she hoped it would be a “defiant riposte” to Trump’s inauguration in January.

“It is perhaps ironic that the museum is based in Washington,” Yee said, adding that she had anticipated announcing the Whitechapel show to coincide with the election of the first female president of the US.

Terrains of the Body (18 January-16 April) will feature contemporary artists from five continents, including Shirin Neshat, Anna Gaskell, Daniela Rossell and Hellen van Meene. Extending the scope of feminist performance and video art of the 1970s, many of the works capture women either in domestic spaces or in expansive and wild landscapes.

  • Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation, Themis in the Birdcage (photographic still from The Rape of the Sabine Women, 2005)
  • Daniela Rossell, Medusa, from the Ricas y Famosas series (1999)
  • Nan Goldin, Self-Portrait in Kimono with Brian, NYC (1983)

Justine Kurland’s Waterfall Mama Babies (2006) depicts women and children bathing at the foot of a cascading waterfall, while Icelandic Love Corporation’s Where Do We Go from Here? (2000) features a woman dressed in white gazing out over an icy sea. Several artists, such as Nan Goldin, Marina Abramović and Shirin Neshat, turn the camera on themselves as a way of expressing individual and shared identities.

Susan Fisher Sterling, the director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, says it is important “now, more than ever, to champion women at the forefront of contemporary art”. The institution, which is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to the creative contributions of women, is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its UK Committee, which partners with British institutions. “Working together with like-minded cultural institutions such as the Whitechapel, we are helping to right the balance for women artists through excellence in the arts,” Sterling says.

The Whitechapel Gallery is fast becoming a champion of female artists in its own right. It is currently showing works by the feminist art activists the Guerrilla Girls–the group’s first dedicated show in the UK. Is It Still Even Worse in Europe? surveys more than 400 European museums on the steps they have taken towards diversity. The public gallery is displaying the mixed results until 5 March 2017.

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