In 1970, protesters descended on the Whitney Museum of American Art to demand that its annual exhibition (overwhelmingly male) contain at least 50% of works by women, and that half of these women be black. The Women’s Art Ad Hoc Committee – which included artists Faith Ringgold, Poppy Johnson and Brenda Miller, as well as critic Lucy Lippard – organized a sit-in at the museum and placed tampons and eggs with the message “fifty percent” around the construction site.
For Lippard, it didn’t stop there. The following year, in 1971, the activist, art critic and curator organized the unprecedented exhibition “Twenty-six contemporary women artists” at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. “I participated in this exhibition because I knew that there were many women artists whose work was as good or better than what is currently on display, but who, due to the discriminatory policies of most galleries and museums , can rarely get anyone to visit their studios or take them as seriously as their male counterparts,” Lippard writes in the exhibition catalog.Aldrich’s current senior curator, Amy Smith-Stewart, adds, “Women artists had no visibility in the art world in 1971. Their voices had been silenced, excised and erased for centuries.”
Fifty-one years later and five years of preparation, the Aldrich revisits this pivotal exhibition with “52 Artists: A Feminist Stage.” On view through January 8, 2023, the new iteration features 26 New York-based female and non-binary artists born in or after 1980 alongside the original 26 artists. “’52 Artists’ is both a tribute and a manifesto: a time capsule tracing the production of feminist art over half a century. It typifies the transformative possibilities of feminist art,” says Smith-Stewart. “The Original Lippard ‘Twenty Six Contemporary Women Artists’ catalyzed the fight. ’52 Artists’ demonstrates its revolutionary persistence. Both fire up our imaginations to consider what another 50 years might bring.
Although great progress has been made over the past half-century, art exhibitions remain predominantly male and white – a study 2019 found that 87% of artists in museum collections at the time were male and 85% were white. “Of course we have a long way to go and new threats to our autonomy, but to get to where we are now, artistically, because of the battles they fought, is truly remarkable and makes me feel very lucky and indebted. to the legacy that precedes me,” says Loie Hollowell, one of the next generation of performing artists. Do – by continuing to do your work – we are collectively pushing the boundaries of equality so that future generations of female artists may find themselves able to freely pursue their art with fewer restrictions from national and industry inequalities,” adds Susan Chen, another of the young artists appearing.
Keep scrolling to see the work of ten featured artists — first, five newcomers, then five from the 1971 exhibition — and how each sees being a woman through their art, as well as in life and in life. as an artist, historically and today.