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Centre Pompidou Dedicates Exhibition to Women: elles@centrepompidou
Suzanne Valadon, La Chambre bleue, 1923. Oil on canvas, 90 x 116 cm. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne (diffusion RMN, photo: Jacqueline Hyde)

PARIS.- The new hang of the permanent collection of the Musée National d’Art Moderne is to be entirely devoted to modern and contemporary women artists – the first time such a thing will have been done by a national museum of art.

The exhibition, drawing on one of the world’s greatest collections of modern and contemporary art, the largest in Europe, represents a vigorous affirmation of the Museum’s commitment to women artists of every nationality, across all the disciplines, returning them to their rightful place at the centre of the modern and contemporary art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Following “Big Bang” in 2005 and “Le Mouvement des Images” in 2006-2007, “elles@centrepompidou” will be the third thematic hang of the permanent collections of the Musée National d’Art Moderne.

Organised chronologically and thematically, the exhibition brings together more than 500 works by more than 200 artists, from the early twentieth century to our own day.

Drawn from the historical collection, the work of such emblematic figures as Sonia Delaunay, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning, Joan Mitchell and Maria-Elena Vieira da Silva, among many others, will hang alongside the productions of major contemporary women artists, notably Sophie Calle, Annette Messager and Louise Bourgeois, all recently the subjects of monographic exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou.

Within the exhibition, women artists will speak for themselves, with their observations on their own work cited in the extended labels, while the wall texts are given over to the reflections of women writers, philosophers, novelists and historians. Many of the artists will also address the public directly, in talks and discussions.

The Centre Pompidou’s multidisciplinary programme of accompanying events will consider in greater breadth and depth the various fields of culture that women have made their own over the last century, looking at literature and theory, dance and cinema.

A dedicated audio-guide has been produced, offering the public an informed introduction to the exhibition. A 380-page catalogue is to be published by Éditions du Centre Pompidou, in French and English versions. This will include several essays and a chronology of women’s art over the past century.

A radically innovative website, centred on an interactive plan of the exhibition, will feature all the accompanying events, as well as offering newly commissioned film-portraits of artists and an interactive timeline.

The exhibition occupies the two floors of the Museum (extending over 6,000 m2) and is organised in seven thematic sections that reflect historical developments. The first of these in chronological order comprises eight rooms on Level 5.


Though rare, marginalized and often struggling, women artists were involved in all the various artistic movements of the first half of the twentieth century. Their engagement with, and their effort to free themselves from, the traditional conceptions of “women’s art” led them to develop artistic stances and modes of expression that would become central to the contemporary art of our own day, in performance, in biographical work, in textile installations. At the same time, women architects developed new conceptions of domestic space, based on a more sociologically informed understanding of its users and their lives.

Works exhibited (selection):
Sailing, 1985, Shirley Jaffe; Chasse interdite, 1973, Joan Mitchell; Philomène, 1907, Sonia Delaunay; Les Lutteurs, 1909-1910, Natalia S. Gontcharova; Mutter, 1930, Hannah Höch; "The Frame" (Self-Portrait), 1938, Frida Kahlo; Ils ont soif insatiable de l'infini, 1950, Judit Reigl; La Chambre bleue, 1923, Suzanne Valadon; A Young Man in Curlers at Home on West 20th Street, 1966, Diane Arbus; Armoire de toilette, 1927-1929, Eileen Gray; Bureau en forme, 1939, Charlotte Perriand; Nusch Eluard, 1935, Dora Maar.


“Free Fire” brings together artists, not all explicitly feminist, who cast a critical eye on art and life, from art history to gendered social relations, from representations of the body to the representation of war, from the personal to the political, challenging established boundaries and categorizations.

Works exhibited (selection):
La Mariée, 1963, Niki de Saint Phalle; Personal Cuts, 1982, Sanja Ivekovic; The Analysis of Beauty, 1986, Karen Knorr; Cogito, ergo sum, 1988, Rosemarie Trockel.


“The Activist Body” returns to the representation of the body and notably to gender stereotypes, and goes on to look at the body in early performance art, in which women artists played an essential role. Early and inventive users of photography and later of video, women artists have more recently reinvented the practice of drawing, using these different media to explore and to transform the very notion of the body.

Works exhibited (selection):
Robe des MesuRages, 1977, ORLAN; Vanitas: robe de chair pour albinos anorexique, 1987, Jana Sterbak; Denkifuku, 1956-1999, Atsuko Tanaka; Art must be beautiful... Artiste must be beautiful, 1975, Marina Abramovic; Selected Film Works, 1972-1981, Ana Mendieta.


“Eccentric Abstraction” demonstrates the essential contribution made by women to the redefinition of the visual and theoretical categories during the twentieth century. Between figuration and abstraction, the organic and the systematic, the sensual and the conceptual, simultaneously “visual, tactile and visceral,” they have explored new materials and new strategies in painting, sculpture, photography and architecture.

Works exhibited (selection):
Untitled N° 13, 1965, Agnes Martin; Extrême tension, 2007, Louise Bourgeois; Untitled 19, 2007, Silvia Bächli; 2 carrés en 3 morceaux, 2005, Vera Molnar; Untitled, 1994, Valérie Jouve; K1-Zeichnung, 1966-1967, Hanne Darboven.


“A Room of Ones Own” – its title taken from Virginia Woolf’s book, in which she considers the conditions necessary to creative activity – looks at women’s contradictory relation to private space, place of both confinement and liberation. Responding to this complexity in art and design, they have challenged the boundaries between private and public, cultural and functional.

Works exhibited (selection):
Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot, 1970, Dorothea Tanning; Rock, 2007, Tatiana Trouvé; Bloc sanitaire "Savoie", 1972-1974, Charlotte Perriand; L'Hôtel, 1981-1983, Sophie Calle.


“Wordworks” shows how language, central to the Conceptual Art that emerged in the 1960s, has been seen by women artists as a terrain of contestation and reinvention. Old narratives are deconstructed, new narratives constructed. In narrated video, in the captioned photograph and in the artist’s book, the autobiographical “I” is brought into art and also put into question.

Works exhibited (selection):
Signal électronique, 1985, Jenny Holzer; Untitled, 1986, Barbara Kruger; Untitled, 2000, Natacha Lesueur; Untitled (Passage II), 2002, Cristina Iglesias; Shortstories, 2008, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster; Tuuli / The wind, 2001-2002, Eija-Liisa Ahtila.


Contradicting the traditional association of the female with the body and so with materiality and figuration, and of the male with the mind and thus with immateriality and abstraction, the work of many women artists has been centrally concerned with economy of means, a quest for a radical ascesis of gesture. In photography, architecture and painting, the ephemeral, the minimal, the absent and the indiscernibly different have posed a challenge to solidity and fixity.

Works exhibited (selection):
Splight, 2005, Matali Crasset; FlowerPower custom written plug-in: Kyle Steinfeld with Alisa Andrasek, 2005, Alisa Andraseck; Kodak, 2006, Tacita Dean; Very Round Chair, 2006, Louise Campbell; Untitled, 2006, Isa Genzken; Chapeau Lacroix, 1998, Nancy Wilson-Pajic; Triptyque lumière, 1970-1971, Geneviève Asse.

Women Artists of the Collections of Film and New Media

Free access to a selection of over two hundred films and videos, part of the great chapters of the collection as well as the body of works created by the women artists of the Collections of Film and New Media. Videos from the 60’s, 70’s and from the beginning of the 80’s are voluntarily broadcasted on cathode ray monitors in order to respect the aesthetic rules of artworks presentation

Centre Pompidou | Suzanne Valadon | Sonia Delaunay | Frida Kahlo | Dorothea Tanning | Joan Mitchell and Maria-Elena Vieira da Silva | Sophie Calle | Annette Messager | Louise Bourgeois |  |

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