In a Powerful Statement, the Baltimore Museum of Art Is Dedicating All of Its 2020 Programming to Female Artists

The museum's planning 13 solo shows for women artists including Joan Mitchell, Candice Breitz, and Katharina Grosse.

Mickalene Thomas, Din, une très belle négresse (2012). Jiménez-Colón Collection, Ponce, PR. © Mickalene Thomas / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Baltimore Museum of Art has announced that it is planning a year’s worth of exhibitions dedicated to female-identifying artists throughout 2020. In addition to the previously announced Joan Mitchell retrospective, there will be a show of video art by Candice Breitz, an exhibition of beaded Native American works by 19th-century Lakota women that appropriate patriotic imagery, and a major commission by Katharina Grosse.

“The goal for this effort is to rebalance the scales and to acknowledge the ways in which women’s contributions still do not receive the scholarly examination, dialogue, and public acclaim that they deserve,” said Baltimore Museum director Christopher Bedford in statement. The “initiative serves to recognize the voices, narratives, and creative innovations of a range of extraordinarily talented women artists.”

Beginning in the fall of 2019, the museum will host 13 solo exhibitions and seven thematic shows, all featuring women. The initiative, called 2020 Vision, is the museum’s latest effort to rewrite the art-historical canon. In the past it has sold works by blue-chip white male artists that are well represented in the collection to fund the acquisition of contemporary art by women and artists of color. With the proceeds from the sale of works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Franz Kline, the museum has purchased pieces by Jack WhittenWangechi MutuLynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Amy Sherald, who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait.

Joan MItchell, Bracket (1989). Courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Joan MItchell, Bracket (1989). Courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Over the next year, the museum has planned solo shows for Ellen Lesperance, Sharon Lockhart, Ana Mendieta, Howardena Pindell, Tschabalala Self, and Lisa Yuskavage. In November, Mickalene Thomas will transform a two-story lobby into a fully furnished, wallpapered living room featuring her prints for the museum’s inaugural Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Biennial Commission.

The museum will also highlight the city’s contributions to art history, with solo shows for Baltimore artists past and present, including Grace Hartigan, Valerie Maynard, and Jo Smail. In addition, local artists will have a prominent place in thematic exhibitions. The embroidery, ceramics, and jewelry on view in “Free Form: 20th-Century Studio Craft and Adorned: African Women & the Art of Identity” will include work by Gloria Balder Katzenberg and Betty Cooke. Meanwhile, hometown artists Simone Brangier Boas and Amalie Rothschild will join Elizabeth Catlett, Maria Martinez, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others in “By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists.”

Candice Breitz, TLDR (2017). Photo courtesy of Goodman Gallery, kaufmann repetto, KOW.

Candice Breitz, TLDR (2017). Photo courtesy of
Goodman Gallery, kaufmann repetto, KOW.

The permanent collection will be reinstalled throughout the year to feature more work by female artists, with presentations tentatively titled “African Art and the Matrilineage” and “Women Behaving Badly.” The former will take a unique look at the prominent role of maternal power in 19th- and early 20th-century African art, while the latter considers representations in European and American art of women who rebelled against the traditional roles of wife and mother, from biblical heroines and witches to activists and actresses.

The museum also made headlines last month when it announced plans to open a dedicated Henri Matisse art center. Thanks in large part to a major donation from Baltimore sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, who personally knew the artist, the Baltimore Museum boasts the largest public collection of works by Matisse in the world. Vision 2020 will celebrate the acquisition of the Cone Collection with a display honoring the legacy of former museum director Adelyn Breeskin, who facilitated the bequest.

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