Works by a diversity of Australian women artists will be showcased at the National Gallery Australia for 11 weeks with a commitment to understand, champion and celebrate more female artists and their works.
The exhibit, Know My Name: Australian Women artists 1900 to Now, includes works by Lindy Lee, Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋgu, Bonita Ely, Jill Orr, Savanhdary Vongpoothorn and Fiona Foley, plus a commission from the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.
The exhibit aims to increase the visibility of art made by women and tell the stories of some of Australia’s most iconic and influential female creatives from the past one hundred years. Over 150 female-identifying artists have been featured in the show, including famous names such as Florence Broadhurst and Margaret Olley, Mary Featherston and Linda Marrinon.
Dr Deborah Hart is the gallery’s Head of Australian Art. She said the gallery has been long compelled to take a stance against an art-form that remains throughly male-dominated.
“I’ve heard, ‘Why a show on Australian women artists?’,” Dr Hart told ABC over the weekend. “People have said, ‘Why is this necessary now? Haven’t we gained a lot and done a lot?’
The exhibit includes a portrait wall at the entrance of the gallery featuring roughly fifty artists.
Co-curator Elspeth Pitt, who also contributes to the exhibition book with her essay “I Remember, They Remember, We Remember” said the wall “epitomises the exhibition.” Of numerous artists in the collection, Pitt said many were forgotten as artists or “totally overshadowed” by their male partners or husbands.
“She’s taking back the image and reclaiming it,” Pitt said of one painting by Fiona Foley, titled Badtjala Woman.
The Gallery’s Assistant Director of Curatorial, Exhibitions and Artistic Program believes the exhibit will shift the historical gender-imbalance within the art world and help ameliorate the problem.
“We know there are more names to know, and more work to do, but this is the start of the structural change we need to achieve gender equity in the Gallery and in our sector,” Natasha Bullock told ABC. “We know women have been erased from art history for too long.”
“We are turning up the volume on the many previously unheard voices in Australian art. We urge the community and other institutions to join us on this journey to equity in our programming and collection development.”
The collection will join other galleries around the world in a movement to increase representation of women artists, including groups supporting gender equity in the arts such as Sheila Foundation, The Countess Report, and the #5WomenArtists campaign by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.
This exhibition is part of the NGA’s broader Know My Name initiative, which aims to increase the representation of female artists across the NGA’s future programs and collections and coincide with its principles of gender equality ethos.
This commitment strive to promote education, training and professional development for women as well as implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women, and promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy.
The free exhibit requires guests to book ahead (due to COVID protocols) and is now open till January 31, 2021.