Specialists Speak: Women Art Dealers on Feminist Artists

Maja Bajevic, ”Women at Work, Washing Up,” five-day performance with video and photographs. Exhibition view: Cemberlitas bathhouse, 7th Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul, Turkey (Curator Yuko Hasegawa), 2001. Photo documentation: Emanuel Licha.

In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8), we asked 7 members of the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD) – an international organization founded in 2012 to connect women in the visual arts – to select their favorite artist whose work addresses issues of feminism. Read on to learn more about these dealers and the artists they’ve chosen. 

Georgina Bexon, FRSA

International Advisor on Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art

“Born in West Bengal and now living and working in New Delhi, for more than two decades Mithu Sen has been at the forefront of a generation of contemporary female artists questioning and negotiating feminist issues in South Asia. Sen’s work moves with ease, and spontaneously, between genres – drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, performance, installation, video, (not to mention that she is also a poet) and it is our loss that her name is not better known in the West. She enjoys wide visibility in India, and also has a growing international profile with solo exhibitions and residencies in London, Berlin, Vienna, New York, Los Angeles, Singapore and Tokyo.

“Sen’s mode of challenging assumed female roles and subverting cliched gender positions never stands still: she constantly rethinks and remodels both her ideas and media. From an early show in Mumbai [called] ‘I Hate Pink,’ a statement on rigid societal conventions, to ‘Twilight Zone’ in New Delhi, a whole room used as a canvas, floor to ceiling, to narrate a real-life story of sexual violence, Sen never fails to impact the viewer, whether in reflection or revulsion or something in between.

In more recent output, Sen punctuates her work with a wry humor and observes, ‘I believe that the best way to be a feminist is to ignore the divisions and approach issues from a human perspective.’”

Mithu Sen, “In House Adoption 22,” 2011. Mixed media on Epson archival. Credit: Nature Morte.

JoAnne Artman

Owner | JoAnne Artman Gallery

“Sexy, intelligent and subversive, Marjorie Strider’s (1931 – 2014) oeuvre spans multiple movements and confronts our expectations as a feminist artist. Marjorie Strider is an iconic figure within the Pop art movement – a solitary character as a female artist exhibiting among her male contemporaries such as Warhol, Wesselman, and Lichtenstein. Strider’s body of work encompasses painting and performance art, as well as site-specific Claes Oldenburg-inspired installations of soft sculpture.

“She is best known for her subtly radical three-dimensional paintings inspired by the types of advertisements seen in men’s magazines of the 1960s. Here, her work explores the feminist concept of the ‘male gaze’ as seen in both film and the visual arts, using the gaze as a vehicle of communication through use of inherent social implications, while offering a unique feminist perspective by appropriating the most popular Pop art motifs to her own purpose. A painting such as ‘Bond Girl’ (pictured) reads very differently by a female artist due to the nature of the source material, which plays upon the male dominated arena of advertising and consumer culture. By repurposing the female form, Strider cleverly subverts the context by giving a new role to this type of stereotypical imagery found in the advertising of the ‘Mad Men’ era.”

Marjorie Strider, “Bond Girl,” 2014. Acrylic on MDF.

Geneviève Lévesque

Director | Artêria Gallery

“Martine Savard’s work does not immediately reveal itself to the viewer. She works in a visual idiom that appears deceptively simple and childlike, often employing only a few bright colors against a stark black background. Her figures are rendered with just enough detail to conjure a universal designation, that of a woman, animal, or child. Savard’s suspension in the symbolic realm is intentional. She imagines the symbolic image as a ‘point of contact,’ a place from which collective consciousness can be activated.

“Savard perceives her work as a process of mapping, an effort to trace the progression of shared feminine experience, in its vulnerability, pleasure, and brutality. Her apparently elemental tableaux themselves assume the temporal density of landscape as they gradually reveal in shadow and texture the evidentiary traces of human action and passing time. Painting from her home in a far northern region of Quebec uniquely positions Savard to engage with geography and its ability to overwhelm and isolate the imagination. From a remote enclave ensconced by the raw lights of the far north, Savard reaches out for connection, seeking assurance that her solitude is as illusory as the multiplicity of past and present realities she channels in her work.”

Martine Savard, “Yes we can smile at fear,” 2013. Acrylic on wood.

Galia Kirilova

Managing Director | Wealth of Art

“French-Bosnian artist Maja Bajevic (1967 – ) was born in Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists on the map of Europe. The fragmentation of the Balkan states and the personal experience of life here have contributed to the creation of Bajevic’s identity as an artist.

“In her performances, videos, and installations, Bajevic often uses women to engage with and confront private and public spaces. One of my favorite works is the trilogy project ‘Women at Work,’ which reflects on the war and the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. [In the piece], five women perform domestic practices like washing, stitching, and sewing in public spaces. With these gestures, they conform to social expectations of womanhood and transform their craft into historical memory and understanding while questioning the system they are a part of and social changes taking place around them.

“During great political reform, the woman’s role is often unknown. Bajevic empowers women through performance art while paying them homage.”

Maja Bajevic, ”Women at Work, Washing Up,” five-day performance with video and photographs. Exhibition view: Cemberlitas bathhouse, 7th Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul, Turkey (Curator Yuko Hasegawa), 2001. Photo documentation: Emanuel Licha.

Joanna Bryant

Owner | Joanna Bryant Projects
Co-Chair of the London Chapter of the Association of Women Art Dealers

“I am not interested in strongly feminist art, if it is anti-men! I am more interested in making sure that women get judged fairly for their talent, as equals among men… I choose to collaborate with other dealers and artists freely, steering clear of gender issues, trying as best I can to view each one as an individual and make judgments based on talent and personality.

“The artist that I would choose to nominate as my female artist, whether her work is judged as being feminist or not, is Marina Abramović (1946 – ). A Belgrade-born artist who was a pioneer of performance art, whose performances are weird and wonderful, yet have the power to reach out to the unofficiated, non-art world viewer and make an impact. I choose her because she is a pioneer and a strong-minded woman with social justice and humanity at the core of her practice.”

Kristina Huntington

Founder | KH Fine Art Projects

Andrea Bowers (1965 – ) is a truly exceptional artist, feminist, and a committed social activist. Based in Los Angeles, Bowers works in variety of media to illustrate issues of gender and race discrimination.

“In a 2016 exhibition at Andrew Kreps Gallery, titled, ‘Whose Feminism Is It Anyway? she addressed the struggle of trans-women’s rights, creating a trifecta of 8-foot photographs depicting celebrated trans-activists sauntering in radical, chic poses. For this series, Bowers used her personal collection of historical protest posters as a reference. For the 2017 Edition of Art Basel in Miami, Bowers created a group of paintings titled, ‘Vote For Women,’ which pays homage to the illustrators who created homemade Suffragette posters. Bowers is a magical combination of skilled artist and champion of women!”

Andrea Bowers, “Vote For Women (Suffragette Procession) – TBD, 2017,” mixed media, archival marker on cardboard.

Susan Mumford

Founder | AWAD and Be Smart About Art

“My own work in addressing gender in the art world involves talks and panel discussions. It was at such occasions that I initially noticed Nicolas Laborie’s active attendance and engagement, especially around HeForShe (the U.N. campaign that welcomes men to champion the cause for gender equality), which is always welcome. Upon viewing his meticulously printed photographs at a solo show, I became intrigued with his keen employment of a 19th century photographic technique.

“A summary of Nicolas’s creative practice brings together these passions of gender parity and skillful ability: ‘His photographic work is based on social commentary, the human condition, and gender equality using the Wet Plate Collodion process.’ It was this fusing of an old photographic process with a contemporary subject that lead to his 2018 collaboration with milliner Claire Strickland, called, ‘THE SUFFRAGETTES: Millennial rebels.’ The exhibition, for which millennial women have posed and reflected upon what the anniversary means to them, celebrates 100 years since women won the vote in the U.K. It will take place during International Women’s History (or shall we say ‘Herstory’) Month.” 

Left: Nicolas Laborie, “Tilda as Emmeline Pankhurst,” & Right: Nicolas Laborie, “Libby as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson,” Wet Plate Collodion tintype prints aluminium plate.

“Nicolas, as a photographer, thinker and learner, has his teeth into the subject of gender equality. He also understands the vital role that he plays as a male artist addressing the subject in his work. He’s here to stay, with creative flair to boot. Keep him on your radar as a socially engaged artist to watch.”

Marine Tanguy

CEO | MTArt Agency

Leni Dothan studied religious iconography at UCL for seven years before she became a mother. After she gave birth and went back to her studies, she noticed the lack of motherhood narratives in museums, and how the religious iconography of the ‘Virgin/mother’ had influenced her thinking towards motherhood. She started making works engaging with her experience of being a woman going through motherhood. I feel that this subject is extremely relevant and should be better integrated into history of art. Needless to say she is a feminist. Other subjects she has explored include periods, age, and ambition for women.”

Screenshot from Leni Dothan’s video work, “Sleeping Madonna.”

Looking for more? Explore the work of additional leading women artists here