Women Artists at MoMA

This entry is a personal journey of reading: MODERN WOMEN, a New York Museum of Modern Art collection of essays.  One of the writers, Cornelia Butler, is the Ahmanson Curatorial Fellow at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Her essay for the book is titled The Feminist Present: Women Artists at MoMA. It explores the history of the museum’s artist selection, curation, and collection.

Ms. Butler states: “The idea of embracing uncertainty and doubt as a framework for making art (and life) seems extremely relevant for the current shifting economies and international discourse of change.”  The term “framework” is key to the discussion because it sets the appropriate structure to understand the museum’s history.  What and who set the standard to why women artists were included or not in exhibition opportunities?

Fortunately, the museum had the vision and determination to explore this topic.  Butler states: “By 2000, MoMA, like most museums exposed to a decade of globalism, was more aggressively attempting to redress its history not only with the women artist but also with artists from diverse cultural positions.”  In order to do this, MoMA would honestly have to look at their structure and decision-making.  According to Butler: “Thinking through art as it has unfolded after 1970 has been at the heart of the Museum’s mission to reshuffle the twentieth-century narrative it was so instrumental in establishing.”

The MoMA’s book melds together the institution’s values with social and political influences on art making.  As an artist, I appreciate the acknowledgment and investigation.  Buter: “At some level the feminist present is about more and different information and about creating a space and time for looking and for changing the way we see.”  “Success” is opening one to many perspectives; this is where progress and truth can be found historically.

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