Powerful Women: A Hidden History


LDG, National Gallery

Image by Ray Ewing, Realistic Worlds

Not long ago Screen Shot raised the question on whether museums are ready to challenge their traditionalism, to dig into their collections and archives and rethink the narratives that have been portrayed through the display of certain works while ‘forgetting’ others.
Contemporary cultural theory as well activism is with no doubt pressuring museums and cultural institutions to come to terms with their past as perpetrators of dominant histories. One of those histories concerns the absence – of women artists within art history.

To give a single example of the gender imbalance within museums, out of 2,300 artists on display at the National Gallery just 11 are women, and to put this information in perspective: within permanent collections worldwide less than the 5% of the artists are women, modern art included. Not only women artists have been largely excluded, but the stories of those who found a little space within art history have been downsized to make sure they did not shade the glory of their male colleagues.

The same can be said about the powerful female characters portrayed within most of the art works displayed in museums. Who knows the stories of Pompidour, Saint Catherine, Medusa? Out of the countless female iconic figures, how many of us know the legends behind them? How many Old Testament heroines do we know in comparison to the male ones?

Coming back to our initial question, it can be stated that London’s emblematic museums are indeed promoting creative and educational programs aimed to reconsider their own collections in order to tell the histories left hidden for far too long.