Global museums great and small are featuring female artists in major 2020 exhibitions. Here are a dozen or so of the most intriguing shows.

The international art world has long suffered from a serious case of gender inequality. In the last decade, only 14 percent of exhibitions at 26 major American museums were of work by women, according to studies by Museums are not buying work by women, either. Of the 260,470 works added to permanent collections since 2008, only 29,247 were by female artists. 

The year 2020 marks a century since women were guaranteed the right to vote in the United States. Beginning in the 1800s, women organized, petitioned, and protested to win the right to vote, but it took decades.

Overcoming an unbalanced art world will also take years. Art lovers can attend exhbitions featuring female artists to demonstrate they’re a draw. Collectors can bid on the works. Philanthropists can address the imbalance in permanent collections by donating  the work of women to their favorite museums.

And media that covers art and culture can do its part by championing female artists and featuring museum exhibitions and gallery shows of their work. 

Graciela Iturbide

National Museum of Women in the Arts 
Washington, D.C.
February 28 – May 25, 2020

Mexico City, 1969–72, Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, © Graciela Iturbide, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Renowned as one of the most influential contemporary Latin American photographers, Graciela Iturbide creates nuanced insights of her native Mexico. Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico is the artist’s most extensive U.S. exhibition in more than two decades, including 140 signature black-and-white prints presenting nuanced insights into the communities she photographs. They include compelling views into the daily lives and customs of indigenous men and women, representations of processions honoring the dead, and lavish fiestas that highlight Mexico’s pre-Hispanic and Spanish heritages. Also included in the exhibition are Iturbide’s haunting snapshots of Frida Kahlo’s personal items left at her home, Casa Azul, after the artist’s death.

National Musuem of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 
202.783.5000 |

Artemisia Gentileschi

The National Gallery, London
April 6 – July 26, 2020

Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about 1615-17, © The National Gallery, London.

One of the most famous artists in 17th-century Europe, Artemisia Gentileschi “was the maker of her own image, the hero of her own life,” as one 21st-century critic wrote. Born in Rome in 1593, she was a master of Baroque painting and was the first  woman to be admitted to Florence’s exclusive Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (the artists’ academy). Raped at the age of 18 by a mentor and tortured at his trial to “prove” her truthfulness, she responded by depicting strong women in allegorical masterpieces (often self-portraits), such as the bloody Biblical scene Judith Beheading Holofernes

The Natonal Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London
+44 20 7747 2885 |

Betye Saar

LACMA, Los Angeles
Through April 5, 2020

Betye Saar, A Loss of Innocence, 1998 courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles
© Betye Saar Photo courtesy Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art by Tim Lanterman.

Born in Los Angeles in 1926, Betye Saar is known for her assemblage and mixed media work that deals with issues of race, protest, spiritualty, grief, and gender. Comprised of  found objects she’s gathered in  Southern California and during her world travels, her work has included controversial and racist images like Aunt Jemima, reclaiming them as symbols of empowerment. As part of her artistic process, Saar fills small notebooks with sketches, drawings, and colorful notes from her travels, as well as ideas for work. Betye Saar: Call and Response at LACMA looks at the relationship between her finished works, those preliminary sketches in small sketchbooks, and her travel notebooks.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
323.857.6000 |

Marina Abramović

Royal Academy of Arts, London
September 26 – December 8, 2020

Artist Portrait with a Candle (C), from the seriesPlaces of Power, 2013.
Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives © Marina Abramović.

Since the early 1970s, Marina Abramović has been exploring the relationship between artist and audience. The Yugoslavian-born conceptual artist used her own body to perform many of the often painful and physically exhausting pieces. In The Artist is Present (2010), she sat silently at a wooden table for hours  a day as visitors took turns sitting across from her and staring into her eyes. Over three months and 730 hours she met the gaze of 1,000 strangers. Marina Abramović’: After Life at the Royal Academy—the first female solo show in the British institution’s 250-year history—will include photos, video, and work created specifically for the exhibition. Plus, there will be reprises of her most acclaimed performances by volunteers and protégés, including Imponderabilia, in which she and her then-partner Ulay famously stood naked within a gallery doorway. 

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House
Piccadilly, London

Zanele Muholi

Tate Modern, London
April 29 – October 18, 2020

Pitzer College, Claremont
September 12 – December 11, 2020

Ntozakhe II, Parktown, 2016
All photos courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Cape Town Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson © Zanele Muholi

“I refused to become subject matter for others and to be silenced,” says Zanele Muholi, the South African photographer-activist who confronts the politics of gender, race, and representation in self-portraits and other photographs. Tate Modern in London will host the first major survey of Muholi’s work, while Pitzer College Art Galleries in Claremont will exhibit a self-portrait series by the artist. “The series is giving affirmation to those who doubt when they look in the mirror,” Muholi says in an interview in “To say, ‘You are worthy. You count. Nobody has the right to undermine you—because of your being, because of your race, because of your gender expression, because of your sexuality, because of all that you are.’”

Tate Modern
Bankside, London

Pitzer College, Nichols Gallery
1060 N Mills Avenue
Claremont, California

Sheila Hicks

Hepworth Wakefield, West yorkshire
June 24 – October 20, 2020

Saffron Sentinel, 2017
© Sheila Hicks. Courtesy of Alison Jacques Gallery, London.

Considered one of the most important contemporary textile artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, Sheila Hicks is an American artist based in Paris who has used the art and craft of weaving as the basis of her work for more than 50 years. Hicks’ love for architecture and design is seen in her large-scale installations that respond to the architecture of the museum or gallery in which they are exhibited. Her major commissions have included work in the Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport in New York, now a hotel. Her “innovative, thread-based oeuvre,” as described by writer Alina Cohen, will be on display at The Hepworth Wakefield, a river-side museum designed in the Brutalist style by architect David Chipperfield, located some 50 miles from Manchester, England.

The Hepworth Wakefield
West Yorkshire, Great Britain

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