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Museum showcases a neglected segment of the art world: Women
Grace Hartigan. Red Bowl. 1953. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Herman Jervis, New York, in Memory of Dorothy B. Jervis, BMA 1986.194. © Estate of Grace Hartigan.

by Aimee Ortiz

BALTIMORE (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- The Baltimore Museum of Art introduced an initiative last month “dedicated to the presentation of the achievements of female-identifying artists.”

When the museum announced its plan in August, it said it was part of a “broader vision to address race and gender diversity gaps within the museum field.”

Christopher Bedford, the museum director, said in an interview this week that while the institution has “a very glorious history of women leading the charge, that is not necessarily reflected in either our exhibition history or the constitution of our collection.”

Women have long been overlooked in the art world; that’s the rule, not the exception, according to experts.

A study published in the online journal PLOS One in March found that men accounted for 87% of the artists at 18 major museums in the United States.

Art made by women accounted for just 11% of all acquisitions by 26 prominent American museums and 14% of all exhibitions in the last decade, according to a joint investigation by Artnet, an art market information company, and “In Other Words,” a weekly podcast and newsletter produced by Art Agency, Partners, an art advisory firm that was acquired by Sotheby’s.

Many U.S. museums have come to recognize the need to embrace female artists, but few are taking the steps necessary to reach parity, the report said.

Jessica Porter, executive director of ArtTable, an organization dedicated to advancing women in visual arts, called the Baltimore museum’s initiative “inspiring.” “They’re not just putting together exhibitions but actually going to be buying work that reflects this mission.”

The initiative, which celebrates the centennial anniversary of women getting the right to vote, includes programs, acquisitions and exhibits.

Jessica Wohl, an artist who has exhibited in museums and is an art professor at Sewanee: The University of the South, praised the museum. But, she said, the initiative needs to last for more than one year.

“If we are going for equity,” Wohl said, “I think quantity is really important.”

Women made 3,800 of the museum’s collection of 95,000 artworks.

The first exhibition as part of the Baltimore initiative — called “By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists” — opened last month and features works by artists including Elizabeth Catlett, Maria Martinez and Georgia O’Keeffe.

The museum said it was looking to create long-term, systemic change.

© 2019 The New York Times Company

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