Women artists stage takeover at Seattle Art Museum

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Inspired by the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which for nearly two years removed all the men's art from its modern galleries, the Seattle Art Museum is letting women take over its downtown building this fall.

Lovers of art by men can still get their fill in the museum's Renaissance, Asian and Native art galleries, but those who want to explore art from this past century will be studying the contribution of women to photography, video, painting and sculpture.

The show is a subset of the Pompidou's survey of about a thousand pieces, with more than 130 works of art made by 75 artists from 1907 to 2007. The original exhibit wasn't designed to travel and Seattle is the first museum other than the Pompidou to show it.

Although the Pompidou exhibit was groundbreaking because of its breadth, the subject matter is not unique in the United States, where some recent shows have examined a subset of the art history spanned by this exhibit, including "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution" a show from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles that traveled to New York, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

In addition to the Pompidou exhibit, the Seattle Art Museum is featuring another floor of art by women, mostly from its own collection, spanning the 1920s through today.

The museum's collection is supplemented by loans from local collectors and private institutions throughout the region, including two loaned Georgia O'Keeffe paintings. The museums two other locations also have been infused with art by women this fall.

Come to the downtown Seattle museum prepared to be schooled about modern art and possibly a little surprised. The galleries of "Elles: Pompidou" — more thematically arranged than chronological — are provoking, to say the least.

Near one of Frida Kahlo's most beautiful pieces, "The Frame," are posters extolling the virtues of being a women artist, a somewhat erotic video of a woman playing with some soft and supple cloth tubes in her lap, and a reimagining of a classic Matisse Odalisque painting.

In "The Blue Room" painted in 1923 by Suzanne Valadon, the painter who had worked as an artists' model illustrates a more realistic view of feminine relaxation: in comfortable pajamas, smoking a cigarette, leaning against a pillow in a casual — not erotic — pose. The modern viewer can almost imagine a television flickering across the room.

Wander deeper into the exhibit and the merely challenging leads to provocative, with pieces asking the viewer to reconsider their ideas about beauty, women and the human body.

Viewers are clearly warned before they enter galleries featuring the more controversial pieces, but the curators made a conscious decision not to isolate these pieces or cut them from the exhibit entirely.

"We wanted to insure we weren't steering away from uncomfortable works of art because they were uncomfortable," said Marisa Sanchez, SAM's associate curator of modern and contemporary art, who co-curated Elles: Pompidou with Cecile Debray, curator of modern collections at the Pompidou.

One of Sanchez's favorite pieces in the show is found in the "bodies" room: a video by Israeli artist Sigalit Landau called "Barbed Hula." The performance piece shows a naked woman using a barbed wire hula hoop while standing on a beach. Sanchez says the piece makes her think about beauty and endurance and women in culture.

"It is OK that any art makes one uncomfortable because it allows for another conversation to open up about what is it about this work that is unsettling," Sanchez said.

The curator hopes people won't shy away from the exhibit even if they are concerned about feeling unsettled.

When asked what she thought about bringing children to see the exhibit, she said parents will have to make that decision themselves. Children may be shocked by some things in the show, Sanchez acknowledged, but mature adults may be as well.

She notes that the exhibit was designed to allow visitors to walk around the most mature pieces, but there is a tremendous amount of material that is less provocative.

Sanchez hopes some people will walk away from the museum wondering why society considers naked women in Renaissance paintings to be totally acceptable for all audiences but aren't as comfortable with female bodies in photos and videos in modern art.

In addition to thinking about the art and how visitors will interact with it, Sanchez said the museum also got more in touch with the Seattle museum's feminine side.

They found that about 6 percent of Seattle's collection is credited to female artists, in contrast to the Pompidou's 18 percent. Part of the explanation for that is the preponderance of Asian and native artworks in Seattle, many of which many have had women contributors but seldom had women credited.

AP

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine