Visitors admiring Amy Sherald's 2018 work. Photo credit: Twitter.
Kicking off the year with a high, the Baltimore Museum of Art has decided to invest in artworks by female artists throughout 2020.
This move is in line with the Museum’s attempt to counter centuries-old marginalization of women’s contribution to the arts, but it has gotten affiliates of the industry talking: while some support it, others are sceptical.
Christopher Bedford, the BMA director, divulged their plans to AFP, “I think it's a radical and timely decision in 2020, to take the bull by the horns and do this.”
Bedford is referring to the auspicious occasion the year marks: the 100th anniversary of the historical 19th Amendment to the US Constitution that granted American women the right to vote.
The long overdue attempt at balancing the scales drew eyes to the disparity in the museum's collection since it was established. Prior to 2020, women contributed only 4 percent of the BMA’s 95,000 acquired art.
However, the issue goes beyond the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Bedford called attention to the systemic discrimination breeding across several art foundations: “And I'm also hoping that our decision has a reverberating effect across the museum field. And that's a consciousness-raising act as well. It's supposed to precipitate an endless action in that direction.”
Art enthusiasts should expect 22 female-focus works at the museum. As reported by the Baltimore Sun, two of the exhibits will feature women through the male artist gaze, inviting thought-provoking analysis.
As progressive as the approach may seem, professionals like Teri Henderson, a Baltimore art curator, can’t help but wonder what ‘radical’ actually entails. According to the curator, an initiative limited to a yearlong purchase spree cannot trump centuries of inequity in the art world.
She admitted it was the first step in the right direction albeit a tiny one.
Diversifying the sphere of arts and culture truly begins when artists of colour are given a solid platform to showcase their works under the patronage of museums. Henderson challenges such institutions to “start taking risks.”
“We’re attempting to correct our own canon. We recognize the blind spots we have had in the past, and we are taking the initiative to do something about them," Bedford told The Baltimore Sun in a modest response.
Out of the artists featured in collections across 18 major US museums, 87 percent were unsurprisingly men, found a Plos-One scientific study last year.
While under-represented female artists will be given celebrity, the BMA will not turn away art donations by men.
The Baltimore-based foundation expects to spend around $2.5 million dollars for the initiation of its program as it gears up to stand for women in art for the year 2020.
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