Sotheby's announced on Friday that it is mounting an exhibition April 2-14, focusing solely on women. Let me clarify. The artworks --everything from Andy Warhol's Turquoise Marilyn silkscreen to Henri Matisse's bronze Figure Decorative sculpture --all depict females. They are on loan from mega-collectors Steven and Alexandra Cohen.
While it's great that the Cohens are willing to loan works for a free show, it's always tricky mounting a show that focuses on gender, and it should always be done with deep consideration for context. It irks me that Steven Cohen's explanation for the "Women" theme is that he simply finds "focusing on one theme intriguing," and Sotheby's explanation, via The New York Times, is that it helps build the auction house's brand and relationship with the Cohens. What we have here is a huge missed opportunity to take a serious, in-depth look at how females have been depicted in art and how this has shaped our attitudes about women, sexual roles, sterotypes and attitudes toward gender. Given that Sotheby's announced the upcoming exhibition during March, National Women's History Month, it almost seems like a no-brainer.
Speaking of Women's History Month, the New York Public Library's blog has a month of great posts about female writers, artists, and others who have made a difference.