One hundred years ago this year, women, and a handful of men, in the US fought for the right for women to have the vote. Their labour resulted in the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution allowing certain women the right to vote. While the amendment was not totally inclusive, for example, women of colour were often barred from casting their ballot, and there was still much work to be done, it was a major milestone in American history that resonated with other countries facing similar issues. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the Park Avenue Armory in New York City has announced a special programme called ‘100 Years | 100 Women.’
During the Armory’s ‘Culture in a Changing America’ symposium, the 100 artists selected to exhibit in the project will be announced on February 15th. Their works will range from dance to photography to film to paintings. So to obtain breadth in the women artists selected, the Armory has sought out the help of 10 institutions who will each commission 10 artists. The National Black Theatre (NBT), who worked with the Armory to create ‘100 Years | 100 Women,’ will present a selection of artists as well as the Apollo Theater, the Juilliard School, La MaMa Experimental Theater Club, the Laundromat Project, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of the Moving Image, National Sawdust, New York University and Urban Bush Women.
When women are represented in the art world, it is usually through the perspective of white women. Thus, ‘100 Years | 100 Women’ is looking to better represent women of colour. ‘This is our present pulse, our day to day mission: knocking down these walls and shining lights in the darkest corners of our own stories,’ said Sade Lythcott, chief executive of the NBT, of the project in The New York Times.
In the last year, the art world has seen a number of similar efforts to highlight women artists and artists who identify as women. Late last year, the Baltimore Museum of Art announced that 2020 would be a year to focus on women. This year, the museum will acquire artwork by women artists only in an effort to expand their collection of women artists, which at the time of the announcement represented less than 5% of their total stores.
Celebrating the accomplishments of women in the art world is made timelier as research has continued to show the underrepresentation of women in museums and galleries around the world. A Swiss survey found that women were often passed over for exhibitions among their top museums. A 2019 study by the Freelands Foundation found similar results among London galleries, where nearly 70% of the artists represented by major galleries were men.
‘Artists will be looking at who is missing in the picture,’ said Avery Willis Hoffman, programme director of the Armory, of the project, ‘to bring them forward and amplify their participation,’ So, much like the ratification of the 19th Amendment, progress is progress, but there is still much to be done. ‘100 Years | 100 Women’ is one project going in the right direction.