Women in art have always lagged behind their male counterparts, largely due to systematic discrimination. However, the Baltimore Museum of Art has decided to something drastic for the issue. The year 2020 at BMA will be dedicated exclusively to female artists.
Throughout the next year, the Baltimore museum would be exhibiting and acquiring artworks from artists that identify as female. Out of the 20 exhibitions planned for the next year, 13 would be solo while 7 would follow a theme. The initiative, which was announced in August, already started last month with an exhibition titled “By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists“. It is interesting to note that 2020 also marks the centenary of women getting the right to vote in the USA.
Women have played a pivotal role throughout the history of BMA. Its first director was a woman, Florence Levy. Women have been a significant contributor to the museum both in terms of funds and artworks. The Cone Collection, one of the attractions in the Baltimore Museum, was a gift from the Cone sisters. BMA acquired its first art by a female artist in 1916 and today boasts of some 3,800 artworks by 1000 women. However, that accounts for a mere four per cent of its collection of 95000 artworks.
The initiative would indeed be a welcome move in the art world that talks a lot about gender equality yet can’t seem to solve the vast gender gap. Male artists still account for 87 per cent of the artworks in American museums. In the last decade, only 14 per cent of the exhibitions focused on a female artist. Despite the call for parity, acquisitions of female artists have not improved since 2008.
The reactions to the Baltimore initiative has been quite great so far. Jessica Porter of ArtTable commended the museum for actually putting money on the cause and called it a “game-changer”. Artist Jessica Wohl praised BMA for perhaps being the first museum to take such a step and hoped the initiative lasts for more than a year.