For centuries, upper class white men dominated art as a medium. It was trailblazers such as Frida Kahlo and Joan Jonas who carved out a space for female artists. Today, women’s art is something to be celebrated, both in its own right and because of its inherently gendered (and politicised) position. To honour this celebration, we present the top five female-led exhibitions in London, from Baroque paintings to a curation of Frida Kahlo’s cosmetics.
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up
After 50 years of being sealed away by her husband, Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe was uncovered in 2004. Never before shown outside of Mexico, this V&A exhibition presents a carefully curated selection of personal artefacts, including her famous embroidered clothing, blusher and lipsticks, as well as her red-booted prosthetic leg. As Kahlo suffered from physical ailments throughout her life, this exhibition shows just how important clothing can be for an individual in shaping and transforming their identities.
Lubaina Himid: Our Kisses Are Petals
After becoming the oldest Turner Prize winner in 2017, Himid has taken to the Baltic Centre for her latest exhibition. Our Kisses Are Petals features paintings on cloth that resemble the style of the Kanga, a fabric traditionally worn by East African women. The pieces are each inscribed with words from poets including James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill and Audre Lorde, creating what Himid describes as ‘speaking clothes’. The cloths are hung in a flag-like and nationalistic fashion, disrupting expectations and subverting notions of identity and what ‘belonging’ means today.
A Woman’s Place
With the Representation of the People Act celebrating its centenary this year, the stately home at Knole is presenting the work of six contemporary artists throughout its house and grounds. The exhibition focuses on the progression of women that have contributed to the history of the National Trust property, shining a light specifically on the untold stories of its women. Highlights include letter extracts from Anne Clifford and Frances Cranfield and specially commissioned works from Melanie Wilson, Lindsay Seers and Emily Speed.
Joan Jonas at the Tate Modern
One of the most important female artists to emerge from the 60s and 70s and pioneer of video and performance, Joan Jonas continues to produce work at the age of 82. This exhibition is the largest collection of Jonas’s work ever held in the UK, and houses her early work from the 60s through to more recent installations. Exploring topics such as feminism, sexuality and climate change, Jonas’s creations remain as poignant and as relevant as they were when she began her work.
Women and Power: A Walk Through Tate Britain
The Walk Through British Art exhibition at the Tate Britain contains a virtual tour of its selection of women’s art throughout history, inspired by the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act. The online collection presents a curated selection of paintings by prominent female artists from the 17th century through to modern day, including Evelyn John, Bridget Riley and Mary Beale, allowing you to take yourself on a handpicked tour of some of Britain’s finest art.