In February the Tate Britain announced that in May 2023 they will unveil the first comprehensive rehang of its extensive collection for 10 years. The rehang is part of Tate’s commitment to diversifying its collection and giving great women artists more prominent positions within the gallery. Once the hang is complete, it will mark the first time in the gallery’s 126 year history that half of the contemporary artists on display will be women.
This move by the Tate is one example of a number of steps taken in recent years by institutions within the art world to redress inequality. For example, in 2022 we saw the Venice Biennale’s central exhibition, Milk of Dreams, dominated by women artists, and major auction houses building sales centred entirely around women for the first time.
Despite such moves, the fact remains that after generations of art by women being ignored, dismissed or invalidated entirely, the art world is nowhere close to being an equal playing field.
The statistics are bleak. In a recent study by British artist and curator Helen Gorrill, which looked at the price of 5,000 paintings sold at auction globally, it was found that for every £1 a male artist earns for his work, a woman artist earns just 10p. Furthermore, while 66% of postgraduate art students are female or non-binary, 67% of those represented by commercial galleries are male.
While we’re reluctant to celebrate any steps forward before more significant moves are made, on the day that we celebrate International Women’s Day, we wanted to honour the women artists who have persevered in spite of these odds.
In today’s blog, we’re looking at some of the most exciting art shows by women artists happening in 2023…
1 - Sarah Lucas
2023 is an exciting year for influential YBA, Sarah Lucas – and for that reason, we’re being sneaky and chucking in two exhibitions that she’s behind: one Lucas has curated, and one where she is star of the show.
Firstly, Big Women: Curated by Sarah Lucas is currently underway at Firstsite Gallery in Colchester. The exhibition showcases work by leading female artists, and, ‘will make you think, laugh and reflect on the role women play in the creative world.’
Big Women, which features everything from sculpture and painting to film and fashion, is inspired by conversations Lucas had with friends and fellow artists about womanhood, and societal expectations surrounding beauty, identity and age. Speaking of the exhibition, Lucas states:
“So much emphasis in our culture is on youth. When the media wants to arouse our sympathy it’s all about children. The fashion and advertising media concentrates on young female beauty. The older woman is often overlooked, irrelevant, without currency. We live in an increasingly ageist society and this affects women disproportionately.
I see BIG WOMEN as both an endorsement and a celebration of women’s achievement in the creative field. It aspires to be thought provoking, funny, serious, attractive and fun. God knows we need it in these times dominated by male aggression, politicking, greed, war and pig-headedness.”
You can catch Big Women until 18th June 2023.
In Autumn, Lucas brings her ‘brash and tender exploration of what makes us human,’ to the Tate Britain. The exhibition will present visitors with the entire spectrum of her creative practice across sculpture, installation and photography.
In her uniquely-humorous and daring way, Lucas will continue to challenge our understanding of sex, class and gender, as she has done for the last 40 years. Definitely not one to miss!
Sarah Lucas’s exhibition at Tate Britain is taking place from September 28th 2023 until January 14 2024.
2 - Alice Neel: Hot Off the Griddle
At the Barbican right now, discover Hot Off the Griddle, the largest exhibition to date dedicated to American painter and self-proclaimed, ‘collector of souls’, Alice Neel.
Andy Warhol, 1970. © the Estate of Alice Neel
Neel rose to prominence in New York during a time when figurative portraiture was deemed highly-unfashionable. She persevered, creating works celebrating those disregarded by society, from pregnant women and queer performers to civil rights activists and Black and Puerto Rican children, drawing the suspicious eye of the FBI in the process.
Nowadays, Neel’s work is lauded for capturing the shifting socio-political landscape of the American twentieth century. Speaking of her approach, she explained: “For me, people come first. I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being.”
Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle is at the Barbican from February 16th until May 21st 2023.
3 – Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way
Swing by Turner Contemporary in Margate to experience Feeling Her Way by Sonia Boyce – the immersive exhibition that won Boyce the prestigious Golden Lion at La Biennale di Venezia 2022. Boyce’s show has been described by Clarrie Wallis, Director of Turner Contemporary, as a “joyful, ambitious installation celebrating female creativity and collaboration.”
The exhibition takes visitors ‘on a journey through a sonic landscape shaped by the audio of five pioneering Black female singers, all singing in acapella.’
By combining video, collage, music and sculpture, Boyce builds on her ‘Devotional Collection’, celebrating the contributions of Black British female musicians to public life and culture.
Feeling Her Way is showing at the Turner Contemporary in Margate from February 4th until May 8th 2023.
4 - Women in Revolt!
Tate Britain continues its renewed commitment to fair representation with a landmark curatorial feat – Women in Revolt: an exhibition featuring the work of over 100 women artists working in the UK from 1970 to 1990, all of whom made a crucial contribution to the feminist movement.
Helen Chadwick, In the Kitchen (Stove), 1977 © The Estate of the Artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery, London and Rome
The exhibition will showcase how these women fought for liberation via their artistic practices amid the harsh political and economic climate of the latter decades of the 20th century.
Attendees can expect paint, drawing, sculpture, film and performance art, set against a backdrop of the punk and peace movements, Section 28, the AIDS pandemic, the British Women’s Liberation movement, and a distinct lack of visibility of Black and South Asian Women artists.
Featuring revered names and more obscure artists, the show traces the lineage of art by women in revolt, celebrating, “the work and lived experiences of women who, frequently working outside mainstream art institutions, were largely left out of the artistic narratives of the time.”
Women in Revolt! will be running at Tate Britain from Nov 8 2023 until April 7 2024.
5 - Marina Abramović
Marina Abramović is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important performance artists, and this year her twice postponed exhibition is finally coming to the Royal Academy in London.
The exhibition is Abramović’s first major show in the UK and will bring together artworks spanning her 50 year career. In that time, we’ve seen her test her own limits of physical and mental endurance, while challenging her audiences to do the same.
Marina Abramović’, Rhythm 0, 1973 © Mostra de Valencia
Over the course of the three month residency at the RA, Abramović will be participating in a whole host of talks and events, so be sure to take your chance to interact with this phenomenal artist.
Marina Abramović will be at the Royal Academy from 23rd September to 10th December 2023.
6 - Action Gesture Paint
Action Gesture Paint is already underway at Whitechapel Gallery in London. The major exhibition features 150 paintings from an overlooked generation of more than 80 international women artists working in the predominantly white male realm of abstract expressionism in the aftermath of World War II.
Wook-kyung Choi, Untitled (detail), 1960s Acrylic on canvas, 101 x 86 cm © Wook-kyung Choi Estate and courtesy to Arte Collectum
Speaking of the exhibition, Whitechapel Gallery says: “Reaching beyond the predominantly white, male painters whose names are synonymous with the Abstract Expressionist movement, this exhibition celebrates the practices of numerous international women artists."
Attend the show to experience global interpretations of abstract expressionism from an entire generation of women artists whose work was unfairly overlooked, including the likes of Lee Krasner, Behjat Sadr, Elaine de Kooning and Wook-kyung Choi.
Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940 -1970 is showing at Whitechapel Gallery from February 9th until May 7th 2023.
7 – Carrie Mae Weems
In June, the Barbican will host the first major British exhibition of the work of multi-disciplinary artist, Carrie Mae Weems. The exhibition will encompass installations, film, photography and objects created over three decades of her career, most of which have never been seen in the UK.
Through her art, the American artist seeks to interrogate gender politics, discrimination, systemic violence and the existing dominant representations of Black subjects.
In a statement about the exhibition, Weems explains:
“My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the roof-tops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specifics of our historic moment.”
Carrie Mae Weems is running at the Barbican from June 21 until September 3 2023.
8 – Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle of Thread and Rope
Head on down to the Tate Modern from now until May to experience the radical woven sculptures of Polish artist, Magdalena Abakanowicz. The towering, forest-like display is on display in the 64-metre long gallery space of the Blavatnik Building.
Born in 1930 in Poland, Abakanowicz came of age during the Second World War and under the Communist regime. Her ambiguous, organic towering works, known as ‘the Abakans’, are considered pioneering in the world of installation art.
Every Tangle of Thread and Rope is on at the Tate Modern until 21st May 2023.
9 – Mary Beale: Experimental Secrets
In April, Dulwich Picture Gallery will launch a new exhibition of works from Mary Beale – the 17th century portrait painter who, at a time when women artists were incredibly rare, was part of a small band of female artists working in London.
Considered a pioneer in her field and technically innovative, Beale was also a writer, and her 1663 manuscript, Observations, which revealed the materials and techniques she used in her work, is considered one of the earliest known instructional texts written in English by a woman painter.
This new exhibition is part of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s, Unlocking Paintings series, in which the gallery presents new perspectives on the historic masterpieces within their collection.
Mary Beale: Experimental Secrets is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery from April 12th to September 3rd.
10 – If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain
Finally, If Not Now, When? is an exhibition showcasing the outcomes of Hepworth’s Progeny – a significant research project undertaken by The Hepworth Wakefield in collaboration with sculptor, Lorna Green and art historian, Griselda Pollock.
Pamela Storey, Bird on a Wire, 2017.
The project generated a survey of British women working in sculpture today and compared it with the stories of women who responded to a parallel survey issued by Green in 1988.
Mandy Havers, Hold, 2003. Photo: Mandy Havers
The exhibition will feature work from 320 artists who responded to both the 1988 and 2022 surveys, including 2022 Turner Prize winner, Veronica Ryan, Kim Lim, and Phyllida Barlow. Attendees are invited to consider issues of gender and time to suggest new narratives around sculpture made by women during this period of social change.
If Not Now, When? is on at The Hepworth Wakefield from March 31st to September 24th.