August 1, 2019
BMA Dedicates a Year of Exhibitions and Programs to Women Artists in 2020
2020 Marks the 100th Anniversary of Women Getting the Right to Vote in the U.S.
Initiative Includes 22 Exhibitions Beginning Fall 2019
BALTIMORE, MD (UPDATED February 10, 2020)—In August 2019, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced its 2020 Vision, a year of exhibitions and programs dedicated to the presentation of the achievements of female-identifying artists. The initiative, which formally launched in fall 2019, encompasses 16 solo exhibitions and seven thematic shows. Highlights include a large-scale transformative commission by Mickalene Thomas, a major monographic survey of Joan Mitchell’s career, an exploration of Candice Breitz’s recent video works, and the reinstallation of several of the museum’s galleries to emphasize the depth and diversity of women’s artistry through time. These presentations will be supported by a wide range of public and scholarly programs that will foster dialogue on women’s contributions to art history and the development of many of the artistic institutions that we know today. The museum has also committed to exclusively purchasing works by female-identifying artists during 2020 and will explore objects across genre, style, and medium in every collecting area. The BMA has committed a budget of more than $2.5 million toward this acquisition effort.
The 2020 Vision is part of the BMA’s ongoing implementation of its broader vision to address race and gender diversity gaps within the museum field, and to represent more fully and deeply the spectrum of individuals that have shaped the trajectory of art. It coincides with the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, ratified on August 18, 1920, which guaranteed most women in the U.S. the right to vote. The initiative also builds on the museum’s efforts over the last several years to expand its presentations of female-identifying artists and artists of color to more accurately reflect the community in which it lives. The acquisition strategy serves to further acknowledge that women have yet to attain equal representation at major museums and is a step toward rebalancing the scales within the BMA’s collection to better reflect women’s contributions to art history and contemporary practice.
“The BMA’s 2020 Vision serves to recognize the voices, narratives, and creative innovations of a range of extraordinarily talented women artists. The goal for this effort is to give women’s contributions in the visual arts the scholarly examination, dialogue, and public acclaim that they deserve,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “While the BMA has been actively collecting the work of women for many years—thanks in part to the many female leaders that have shaped this museum—we are redressing centuries of imbalance to ensure that women artists and artists of color are better represented in our collection and in our understanding of art history.”
The museum began implementation of the 2020 Vision in fall 2019 with the October opening of By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists, which features works by Elizabeth Catlett, Maria Martinez, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others who contributed to major art movements of the 20th century from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism. Several of these artists—including Simone Brangier Boas, Grace Hartigan, and Amalie Rothschild—were based in Baltimore during their careers. This was followed by the November 24 opening of a large-scale installation by internationally acclaimed artist Mickalene Thomas. This immersive, site-specific work for the inaugural Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Biennial Commission transforms the BMA’s two-story East Lobby into a living room for the city with new wallpapers, furnishings, and interior decor designed by Thomas. In December, the museum will open Free Form: 20th-Century Studio Craft and Adorned: African Women & the Art of Identity. Free Form presents works by innovative embroidery, ceramic, and jewelry artists such as Mariska Karasz and Baltimore-based artists Gloria Balder Katzenberg and Betty Cooke. Adorned features two dozen works that demonstrate the critical role of 20th-century African women in shaping and maintaining social identities through objects created in clay, cloth, and beads.
The BMA’s 2020 Vision initiative will be in full swing by March 2020, when a selection of powerful videos by internationally acclaimed artist Candice Breitz are presented in the special exhibition galleries. The South African-born artist creates moving socio-political narratives that address the lives of immigrants, the rights of sex workers, and other topics that reflect human rights concerns. The exhibition will focus primarily on two major video works: TLDR (2017) and Love Story (2016). In September 2020, the BMA presents Joan Mitchell, a comprehensive retrospective of works by the renowned American artist. This exhibition will explore the full arc of Mitchell’s artistic practice—from her exceptional New York paintings in the early 1950s to the majestic, large-scale multi-panel works made in France later in her career. Rarely shown paintings and works on paper from public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe will reveal the artist’s inner landscape—experience, sensation, and memory—expressed with an intensely athletic grace.
Every gallery in the BMA’s Contemporary Wing will also be in alignment with 2020 Vision through two complete reinstallations taking place during the year. A suite of focused solo exhibitions includes a newly commissioned work by German artist Katharina Grosse, as well as of works by Zackary Drucker, Sharon Lockhart, Ana Mendieta, Howardena Pindell, Tschabalala Self, and Lisa Yuskavage, and Baltimore-based artists Valerie Maynard, Jo Smail, SHAN Wallace, and Elissa Blount Moorhead with Bradford Young. On the first floor of the museum, Ellen Lesperance: Velvet Fist will present a suite of seven exquisite paintings from the artist’s ongoing Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp series shown with her Congratulations and Celebrations Sweater participatory project. In the European galleries, the museum will present a new deity-like sculpture by Shinique Smith that is inspired by the monuments that she practiced drawing as a young artist growing up in Baltimore City.
In summer 2020, the BMA will present Stripes and Stars: Reclaiming Lakota Independence, which features a selection of beaded works created by 19th-century Lakota women who subversively incorporated the American flag and other patriotic iconography into traditional Native American designs. It is joined by several thematic exhibitions drawn from the BMA’s collection, including presentations that feature historic and contemporary works by male artists that emphasize the essential roles of women. A Perfect Power: Motherhood and African Art presents a range of objects from monumental headdresses of elderly mothers to sculptures representing mythic female ancestors to demonstrate the cultural significance and power of maternal imagery during the 19th- through mid-20th centuries. Women Behaving Badly: 400 Years of Power & Protest is a thematic exhibition about representations of female power and protest in European and American art. From mythic and biblical heroines to femme fatales and witches, the show presents approximately 80 works that also foreground the stories of intellectuals, entertainers, and activists who rebelled against the traditional roles of wife and mother. Additionally, the extraordinary legacy of former BMA director Adelyn Breeskin, who arranged the Cone Collection bequest for the museum and commissioned the U.S. Pavilion for the 1960 Venice Biennale, will be celebrated with some of her key acquisitions as well as archival materials.
Women Artists, Collectors, and Leaders at the BMA
The BMA has nearly 3,800 works of art by 1,050 women artists and designers. The first painting by a woman artist to enter the museum’s collection was a portrait by Sarah Miriam Peale, considered the first American woman to succeed as a professional artist. It was given to the BMA in 1916, two years after the museum was founded. The BMA has been avidly collecting works by contemporary female artists for several decades, most recently adding major works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Mary Reid Kelley, Wangechi Mutu, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Amy Sherald, Anne Truitt, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Among the other women artists represented in the collection are Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Elizabeth Catlett, Helen Frankenthaler, Edmonia Lewis, Louise Nevelson, Faith Ringgold, Susan Rothenberg, Alison Saar, Joyce J. Scott, Cindy Sherman, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.
Important donors and collectors whose legacies continue today include Mary Frick Jacobs (1851–1936), who was one of the BMA’s incorporators and funded the 1937 wing that presents European Old Masters paintings and sculpture, many of them from her own collection. Dr. Claribel Cone (1864–1929) and Etta Cone (1870–1949) were ground-breaking collectors who befriended Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso early in their careers and amassed a world-renowned collection of 3,000 works by many of the greatest modern artists of the 20th century. These works were bequeathed to the BMA in 1950, along with the funds to create a suite of galleries for their display. Saidie Adler May (1879–1951) built a remarkable collection focused on the younger generation of Surrealist and other European and American avant-garde artists and also funded a wing at the museum that included a large space dedicated to children’s education. Her sister Blanche Adler (1877–1941) gave the museum a collection of collected lithographs, etchings, and woodcuts by North American and European artists. Dorothy McIlvain Scott (1912–2011) was a BMA Trustee and a prominent collector of 18th- and 19th-century American paintings, furniture, and decorative arts. Scott gave the museum a $10 million endowment gift in 2007 for the Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing, dedicated to her parents and uncles.
The BMA has had a long history of pioneering women who have helped shape the institution since its earliest days. The museum’s first director was Florence Levy, who served from 1923 to 1926. Adelyn Breeskin led the museum as acting director and director from 1942 to 1962, helping to secure the Cone Collection and commissioning the U.S. Pavilion for the 1960 Venice Biennale. During the tenure of Doreen Bolger from 1998 to 2015, the museum reinstalled many of its collection galleries and reinstated free admission. Women board chairs who have led the BMA include Edith Ferry Hooper, Margot Heller, Constance Caplan, Suzanne Cohen, and the current chair, Clair Zamoiski Segal.
About the Baltimore Museum of Art
Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 95,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.