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Sotheby's "Women" Show

Apparently Sotheby's is putting together a show of art that depicts women as subjects. I thought I'd collect the highlighted images they've listed so far in the press release blurb:

Edvard Munch's Madonna (1895–97),
Picasso's Le Repos (1932),
Warhol's Turquoise Marilyn (1964),
Lucian Freud's Portrait of Rose (1978–79), (can't find this one, but here's Esther)
Richard Prince's Spiritual America (1983), featuring a rephotographed nude, prepubescent Brooke Shields.

Woman as virgin, muse, child. Seems like the theme here (so far) is the tension between available/unavailable -- desire and the inability to fulfill that desire. But could we say that applies to all depictions of women in art?

The show is called "Women". I'm curious to find out if there are any woman artists, or if women are only the subjects.

What do you think about a show that uses "women" as a subject? Is it a great way to collect some star artworks under a common theme, or is it celebration of the traditional objectification of women in art? If it is both, does the second detract form the first?

Tangentially, what about shows of women artists - which is what I thought the show would be before I read the press release. Should women be grouped together (and separated from men) as artists?

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Reader Comments (10)

It seems like a subject so broad as to be almost meaningless. Women are a really common subject in art, and so this theme probably encompasses a significant percentage of all paintings ever made. I guess that makes it an easy show to put together, but I think "women artists" would be a more interesting theme.

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBen

I'm conflicted about it. I agree, women as subject is a universal theme almost to the point of being boring, but somehow woman as subject still has resonance.

It bothers me that the star power of the list of male names is hung together on the anonymous female theme. Men are specific, women are generalized. Men are unique, women are idealized. Men are individuals, women are stereotyped etc.

But that's just art history in general, not just this show. But do we need to perpetuate it?

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri

Sadie, I totally agree. I'm conflicted as well. It IS such a popular theme in art, so it seems just an easy way to group some big names. I'd love to see an exhibit of women artists on women as subject. Seems like the perspective and perseptions, would be so different.

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlia El-Bermani

What a great idea!!! A show of women artists' depictions of women. Turns the whole thing on its head.

Someday I will plan such a show...

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri

A quick google search looks like it hasn't been done since 1978...." REL="nofollow">Women Artists Paint Women Artists

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri

OK, I'm game. I've played 'Curator' before... name some favorites, and I'll organize and get it going. I'm serious! I've also been working on a travel residency for women artists. Each year to a different place, 10 women artists, making art together, lodging and some expenses paid. Would you like to join us for the first year (probably 2010)?

March 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlia El-Bermani

Love it! Let's do it. But I gotta catch up... I don't have a piece for the show yet, I've mostly done still lifes so far, but I have some ideas percolating....

I like the travel residency idea, too - will you be announcing it on your blog? In any event, add me to your email list or however you are coordinating it, sounds like fun!


March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri

I thought we could start with a blog - I've reserved "women painting women" as a blog address. If anyone wants to start sending me paintings you like of women by women (living artists) I'll start posting to the blog!

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri

A show featuring "Women" as the subject is kind of like having an ice cream store that features "vanilla" as the flavor. This ground has been covered before, many, many, many times. You're not challenging me with anything new. Someone doesn't feel like doing their homework and is trotting out an old report they wrote years ago.

What would make the show interesting is if both the subject AND the artists were all women.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKat

I agree!! I created an online exhibition in the form of a new blog:" REL="nofollow">Women Painting Women

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri
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