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Museum Makes Big Move to Correct 'Centuries of Imbalance'

Baltimore Museum of Art will acquire works from female artists only in 2020
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2019 9:25 AM CST
Visitors view an exhibit by artist Franz West of Austria at the Baltimore Museum of Art on Nov. 13, 2008, in Baltimore.   (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

(Newser) – "This [is] how you raise awareness and shift the identity of an institution. You don't just purchase one painting by a female artist of color and hang it on the wall next to a painting by Mark Rothko. To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical." So says Christopher Bedford, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, on its plan to acquire works by female artists only for a full year. In 2020, whether art is purchased for or donated to the BMA's permanent collection, it must have been created by a woman. Just 4% of the works already in the museum's permanent collection were created by women. To further combat marginalization of women in the art world—just 11% of all artwork acquired for permanent collections in top US museums over the past decade was by women, per a recent report—there will be a "female-centric focus" in all 22 of the BMA's exhibits, per the Baltimore Sun.

Nineteen of those exhibits will exclusively feature art by women, including at least one transgender woman, Zackary Drucker. The museum's chief curator tells the Washington Post the institution's aim is to "re-[correct] the canon." "What the Baltimore museum is doing is so cool," the incoming executive director of the National Association of Women Artists tells the Sun, adding she doesn't know of any other general-purpose US museum making as big of an effort to showcase female visual artists. "Even today, female artists are highly under-represented in museums." The BMA's move will take place to mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The museum made a similarly big move last year when it sold seven works by modern masters, including Andy Warhol, and used the proceeds to buy works by women and people of color. (Read more Baltimore stories.)

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