It is no secret that representation in the arts is still a far cry from equal—The Guerilla Girls have been telling us for years, and the stats have barely budged. In 2019 the National Gallery of Australia acknowledged that only 25% of its Australian art collection and 33% of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection was by women artists. They made a commitment to change this and introduced the Know My Name initiative: a national program of exhibitions, commissions, partnerships and collaborations that pay tribute to women artists past and present.
Making it Modern is the third iteration of Know My Name, and this time the NGA is exploring the impact women artists had on the early Modernist movement, focusing on the 1920s to late 1940s. Expect Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, Clarice Beckett, Olive Cotton, and an extensive representation of works by Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme, following the success of the NGA’s Spowers & Syme show in 2021, which shed a light on the two overlooked artists.
“The unifying threads are the ways in which these women engage with daily life, nature, still life and interior worlds of place, mind and imagination,” says Dr Deborah Hart, head curator of Australian art. “Yet, each one of the artists brings a quite distinctive approach to their artistic practice: from dramatic prints by Margaret Preston, to evocative photographs of Olive Cotton, to the radiance of Grace Cossington Smith’s paintings, and the poetic atmosphere of Clarice Beckett’s works. In each instance the artists convey a particular take on what it meant to be a modern woman in their times and in the making of their art.”
View, in pictures, how women made it modern.
Know My Name: Making it Modern
National Gallery of Australia
5 August—8 October
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