Launching this Wednesday – the 11 October 2023 – the Women in Art Fair (WIAF) is a new initiative aimed at elevating a cross-section of female artists, curators and gallerists, from emerging talent to seminal names across the industry.
Women in Art
Examining the discourse around women’s-only art spaces, Jacqueline Harvey, founder of the Women in Art Fair and former Managing Director of the West London gallery, Art Strategic, highlights the long-standing challenges facing existing and emerging female talent in the industry. The WIAF seeks to address the critical need for spaces to provide platforms for underrepresented groups, to “create opportunities for future generations.” Indeed, according to Maura Reilly, author of Towards an Ethics of Curating, “women comprise circa 65 per cent of the art-school population, but make up only 32 per cent of artists represented by commercial art galleries.”
Those who challenge the concept of women’s-only exhibitions might argue that this could calcify, rather than correct, the issue. Speaking to new gallerists and those with longer-established careers in the industry, a consistent theme arose around the need for women’s-only exhibitions as a means of addressing the historic and persistent economic disparity between male and female artists.
Speaking to Rowena Easton, Art Director, Writer and Curator of the fair’s Unnatural Women exhibition, she referenced a study that found works by female artists sold, on average, for 42 per cent less than their male counterparts at auction over a near fifty-year period. And, while the market for art by women has doubled over the past decade, only two per cent of the $196.6 billon spent on art at auction was spent on works produced by women, according to Artnet.
Alongside a commitment to supporting women in art, Easton’s latest exhibition, Unnatural Women, is an exploration of humankind’s ambivalent relationship with nature. “I want to explore how we understand and construct wilderness and landscape, particularly how women are placed and understand themselves, and their bodily nature, in relation to the natural world.”
The fair will be split across the North, East and West sections of the Mall Galleries. The North Gallery will feature the work selected from the Open Call while the East Gallery will feature a dedicated exhibition, Unnatural Women, and the West Gallery will house a twenty-one-booth fair with pop-up exhibitions from leading international galleries.
Located in the fair’s East Gallery, Easton’s exhibition will feature a mix of seminal artists, such as Paula Rego and Jean Cooke alongside emerging talents including Olivia Bullock, Angelina May Davis, Abigail Norris and Elissa Jane Diver.
Particular highlights from the fair include:
A Privileged Perspective is a satirical play on the ‘silver spoon’. A hyper-realised teaspoon, tied with a pink bow, is set against a pale-pink crown-illustrated wallpaper. The flashes of green in the spoon’s reflection echo the enigmatic mirror in Van Eyck’s Arnolfini portrait. Aiming to foster cultural exchange and an appreciation of Jamaican art, Theresa Roberts’ exhibition features A Privileged Perspective, part of the Black Circle Gallery’s expo-booth curation.
Bullock’s Invitation is another of the fair’s highlights. The composition, while peaceful in colour, is dynamic and exciting in the billowing movement of a carefully-curated hedgerow with an anthropomorphic aspect, that looks almost like a yawning face.
High Summer Seagull is a colourful display of a classic 20th-century art setting. Pink and green French windows open onto a terrace with a red balustrade and white cut-out seagull form, against the exterior’s more organic forms of blue and green. The scene is a carefully curated and joyful balance of colour, space and interior forms.
One of Easton’s own pieces, Eden depicts an abstracted fleshed-toned form, set against a striking blue sky. The creature looks to stumble towards something in an uncoordinated but forward trajectory. The sense of motion created from the multiple curved, hind legs, elicits something of Giacomo Balla’s Futurist icon, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash.
Kate Street and Holly Miller
Of the exhibition’s most moving pieces: a looped, digital image created by Street and Miller is of a faceless woman atop a digitally-rendered plinth. The woman clutches the wooden base while limbs hide and distort her featureless face. Street and Miller’s pieces will form part of Rowena Easton’s Unnatural Women exhibition, located in the East Gallery.
Lead image: Elizabeth Meek, The Parisian Girl. Triptych. Oil on Canvas Board. 27×44 cms
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