Where are the women in art history?

October 19, 20222 min read
Where are the women in art history?
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Art historian and Guardian columnist, Katy Hessel, topped the charts this week with her book “The Story of Art Without Men” tackling an important question the art world has been asking itself more and more recently: where are all the women artists in the historical narrative?

The question is a rhetorical one because, of course, there have been and are many great women artists to this day. But by posing a similar question –“Why have there been no great women artists?” — in her groundbreaking 1971 essay, art historian Linda Nochlin was one of the first to confront these great omissions from art history: the missing women. 

Fortunately, the last 50 years has brought on a radical shift in the way we think about women’s contribution to art history. Thanks to pioneering scholars, courageous curators, and brave institutions, we now have a completely different vocabulary when describing women in the canon of history and new ways of appreciating their work.

In the November 2022 issue of Vanity Fair released this week, curator Thelma Golden and photographer Annie Leibovitz celebrated 8 female artists whose presence and practice had been largely marginalized, and highlighted the ways that their contributions reinvented the cultural zeitgeist of our time. The article featured the phenomenal trajectories the artists’ lives. Among those celebrated were Faith Ringgold and Mickalene Thomas, whose artworks are included in Yieldstreet’s Art Equity Funds.  

Ringgold was one of the most influential cultural figures of her generation,  drawing from both personal experience and the historical events of her lifetime as sources of inspiration. In her paintings, quilts and other multi-media works, she documented her life as a Black artist, an activist and a mother, working primarily to  amplify her community’s struggles for social justice and equity. 

Thomas’ multimedia work blurs  the  distinctions between  object and  subject, concrete  and  abstract,  real  and  imaginary,  by  constructing complex portraits, landscapes, and interiors to examine how identity, gender, and sense of self are informed by the ways women are represented in art and popular culture. Yieldstreet investors had an opportunity to meet Mickalene Thomas this summer at the Glass House, architect Phillip Johnson’s estate.

This month in Paris, the Pompidou Museum opened an exceptional exhibition of another important female artist, Alice Neel, who is best known for her portraits depicting friends, family, lovers, poets and other artists. There’s a special bond between Alice Neel and Yieldstreet’s very own Managing Director, Rebecca Fine who’s great aunt, Rose Fried was not only one of the first female gallerists of her time, but also gave Alice Neel her first solo exhibition in New York in 1944. Talk about women supporting women!