CRITIC CALLS OUT MOMA FOR GENDER BIAS
New York Magazine (and Artnet Magazine) art critic Jerry Saltz has long crusaded for better representation of women artists in the art world, notably parsing the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Biennial, P.S.1’s "Greater New York" and even shows at Chelsea galleries for gender bias. Recently, he has taken the issue to his Facebook page, where a wide-ranging discussion has been launched.
More important, perhaps, are the statistics that Saltz has marshaled to make his case -- stats that show the Museum of Modern Art doing an exceptionally poor job of giving women artists their rightful place in the patriarchal story of modern art. According to Saltz’s numbers, MoMA has 383 works of art hanging on its fourth and fifth floors, where the museum presents its comprehensive history of 20th-century art -- and a pathetic four percent of the works are by women.
Specifically, of the 135 artists with works hung on those two floors, only nine are women: Louise Bourgeois, Sonia Delaunay-Tack, Natalia Goncharova, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, Lee Krasner, Marisol, Agnes Martin, Lyubov Popova and Hannah Wilke. The museum has no shortage of women in its collection; they’re just not on the walls. On Facebook, Saltz lists 75 women artists in the MoMA collection whose art could easily be added to the museum’s influential art history lesson.
The list -- and quite an impressive one it is -- includes Anni Albers, Romaine Brooks, Claude Cahun, Leonora Carrington, Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Barbara Hepworth, Gwen John, Hannah Hoch, Dora Maar, Joan Mitchell, Grandma Moses, Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Florine Stettheimer, Dorothea Tanning and Bridget Riley.
Now, Saltz has sent an open letter to Ann Temkin, MoMA’s chief curator of painting and sculpture, urging that "something has to be done -- soon." Saltz notes that he is well aware that the museum is publishing a book on all the women artists in its collection, that MoMA photo department plans an "all women hang" this year, and that the curators consider the entire museum as "the permanent collection," which presumably brings the numbers up a bit. He also implies that the museum may be waiting for more exhibition space in a new building planned to the west of the current facility, an option that Saltz calls unsatisfactory. Will Temkin find a way to do better by the numbers? Stay tuned.
YES MEN TEAM WITH GREENPEACE
Last fall, the art team known as the Yes Men made quite a splash in New York, when they helped produce and distribute a fake copy of the New York Times, dated six months in the future, announcing the end of the war and solution to the economic crisis [see "Oh Yes They Did!," Nov. 20, 2008]. Well, apparently, the idea was too good to stay confined to the United States. Last week, June 18, 2009, the duo repeated the stunt with a fake copy of the paper’s cousin, the International Herald Tribune, distributing 50,000 copies in Brussels -- home of the European Parliament, where leaders were meeting to discuss principals on battling global warming -- as well as other European cities.
This time around, the project was initiated not by a coalition of volunteers but by the sturdy environmental nonprofit Greenpeace, which seized upon the idea as a way to highlight the need for urgent action by world leaders at the June 18 meeting, using the various articles to outline what an ambitious agenda would look like. Thus, the fake Herald Tribune features stories like "Heads of state agree historic climate-saving deal," which touts a $50-billion agreement for "climate protection," as well as the more Onion-esque "Atmosphere named world heritage site." Though not quite as impressively broad in scope as the fake New York Times, the new "hopeful hoax" is nevertheless a complete piece of work, including a crossword puzzle with environmentalism-themed clues, and funnies appropriated to the ends of spoofing the state of the debate on climate change (Dilbert’s boss tells him that "Our biggest source of CO2 is from disagreement with management," and so on).
As it turned out, the June 18 Brussels meeting offered no meaningful policy initiatives on climate change, and the online version of the Yes Men’s Herald Tribune (which can be found at http://iht.greenpeace.org/) is therefore updated with a "Correction" titled "World Actually Not Saved." It states that the "editors of yesterday’s special edition wish to correct stories appearing on pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of yesterday’s eight-page special," adding that they "regret any premature celebrations our publication may have triggered among lovers of polar bears, coral reefs, tropical forests, the billion people now once again likely to suffer water shortages in the next decades, and everyone else on the planet, who now face an impoverished and chaotic future as a result."
According to Greenpeace, a copy of the fake newspaper was also sent to the editor of the real International Herald Tribune, accompanied by a bottle of champagne.
AI WEIWEI PROPOSES CYBERSPACE BOYCOTT
The Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei is once again on the front lines of protests against policies of the Chinese government. He recently initiated an art project that involved sending volunteers to expose the circumstances of children killed in last year’s Sichuan earthquake -- and this project brought him face to face with China’s internet censors, who regularly deleted his blog postings and even shut down his blog in the lead-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Now, he has a new target for his outrage: the official announcement of a law that mandates that all computers sold in China be equipped with automatic "Green Dam" filters blocking websites deemed problematic by authorities.
According to the Times of London, yesterday Ai used his personal Twitter account to call for a one-day boycott of all internet-based activities on July 1 -- which happens to be both the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and the date when the new regulations go into effect. Although it would seem odd to protest the lack of freedom in cyberspace by ceasing use of blogs and email, Ai explained himself to the Times: "I hope to awaken national consciousness and action. The constitution regulates that we can strike and so on but in fact we can boycott nothing. We can only boycott our own happiness. I just want to show my view and do the little that I can do."
For Chinese readers, Ai’s Twitter account is www.twitter.com/aiww
9/11 MEMORIAL PLANS GO ON VIEW
New York’s Center for Architecture at 536 LaGuardia Place in Manhattan’s NoHo district presents "Space Within: The National September 11 Memorial & Museum," June 25-Sept. 14, 2009, an exhibition showcasing plans for the proposed memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Organized by the AIA New York Chapter with the Center for Architecture Foundation and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, "Space Within" focuses on models and renderings of Michael Arad’s winning memorial proposal, dubbed Reflecting Absence, which consists of two one-acre reflecting pools at the site of the former Twin Towers, along with bronze parapets inscribed with the names of victims. Also on view is material relating to the "9/11 Museum" by Davis Brody Bond Aedas, which is to incorporate fragments of the towers into its design. According to the press release, the memorial is on track to open on Sept. 11, 2011, with the museum debuting a year later.