Mar 08, 2023 By Yasmin Spiro
Perspective Future Female: Scratch Pad
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What to read, watch, and experience this spring with a focus on women in art and design
By Yasmin Spiro Mar 08, 2023
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(Above: Still from the film“Esterno Giorno")

We've gathered a list of what to read, watch, and experience during Women’s History Month and through the spring.

What to See | Where to Go

Designing Women: Fashion Creators and Their Interiors
The Design Museum at FIT, New York
November 30th, 2022-May 14, 2023

Curated by Patricia Mears, Deputy Director at the FIT Museum, this thoughtfully curated exhibition pulls from the FIT permanent collection, mining the influence of interior design and ‘decoration’ of female designers— late nineteenth century and beyond—working in and founding couture houses in Paris, London, and New York. These women integrated the refined aesthetics of eighteenth-century French interiors. Belle Époque couturières embraced these updated rococo ideals of comfort and luxury, and ranging from art moderne to bohemian eclecticism, these designers integrated interior decoration in their brands and spaces making them seamlessly intertwined.

Each fashion designer in this exhibition is represented by at least one garment or accessory, drawn solely from The Museum at FIT’s permanent collection, and an interior image. From luxe, professionally-crafted couture salons and apartments to modest, self-decorated ateliers and homes, the spaces express the passion these female fashion creators have devoted to their magical interiors.

(Below L-R: Anna Sui, kaftan ensemble, autumn 2012, gift of Anna Sui. Image courtesy of the Museum at FIT; Anna Sui at home, photograph by Migue Flores-Vianna. Courtesy of Elle Décor)


Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
March 24–July 23, 2023

From the museum: “Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980” is the first exhibition to explore the extensive design exchanges between the United States and Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland during the 20th century. The exhibition proposes an alternative to the dominant narrative that cites Germany and central Europe as the primary influences of modern American design, presenting new scholarship on the crucial impact the Scandinavian countries and America had on one another’s material culture. From this perspective, The exhibit investigates timely themes such as the contributions of immigrants to their adopted societies, the importance of international exchange, the role of cultural myths, and designing for sustainability and accessibility.

“Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-980” is co-organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in collaboration with the Nationalmuseum Sweden and the Nasjonalmuseet in Norway.

Installation of “Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980” at LACMA. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art
Installation of “Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980” at LACMA. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art
Installation of “Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980” at LACMA. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art
Installation of “Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980” at LACMA. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art

Alice Neel: Hot Off the Griddle
Barbican Centre, LondonFebruary 16-May 21, 2023

This is the largest exhibition to date in the UK of American artist Alice Neel (1900-1984) her magnetic portraits capture the social and political environment of the American twentieth century.

The Barbican exhibition text shares:

Describing herself as ‘a collector of souls,’ Neel worked in New York during a period in which figurative painting was deeply unfashionable. Crowned the ‘court painter of the underground,' her canvases celebrate those who were too often marginalized in society: labor leaders, Black and Puerto Rican children, pregnant women, Greenwich Village eccentrics, civil rights activists, and queer performers. A member of the U.S. Communist Party, Neel and her radical portraits caught the attention of the FBI. In recent years, the politics of her work has given her cult status among a younger generation of artists.
Organized in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, this exhibition brings together over 70 of Neel’s most vibrant portraits, shown alongside archival photography and film, bringing to life what she called ’the swirl of the era.’

(Below: "Rita and Hubert" 1954 by Alice Neel. Image courtesy of the estate of Alice Neel)


What to Watch

A few fantastic women-led choices from the most recent Venice Architecture Film Festival

"Exterior Day (Esterno Giorno)"

"Inspired by a famous exchange of letters between Michelangelo Antonioni and Mark Rothko, this film by By Giulia Magno, “Esterno Giorno,” is an experimental love letter to Italian cinema.Following in the footsteps of the characters played by Monica Vitti, the film retraces the geography of Antonioni’s vision, pushing the boundaries between subject and landscape, fiction and reality.From the metaphysical squares of Rome’s EUR district to the smokestacks of industrial Ravenna, from the red desert of Wadi Rum to the pink granite cliffs surrounding La Cupola—the futuristic house in Sardinia designed by the avant-garde architect Dante Bini in the 1960s for Antonioni and Vitti, then real-life partners—, the physical spaces explored by the camera become psychological landscapes, states of mind, atmospheres.

"Letters from the Middle-Ground" By Vitika Agarwal

Letters from the Middle-Ground is an architectural response to the postcolonial concept of ‘cultural hybridity’ through a syncretism of British and Indian cultures. The film tells the story of the search for a spatial language, depicting the migrant’s experience of being rooted in many places at once.

The project is located at the Prime Meridian line in Greenwich, a landmark described as both the center of world time, but also a political decision that labeled the East as ‘other’. The building deconstructs this line; it is a poetic antithesis to a world divided in two halves, creating a fertile third space where cultural hybridity is unleashed.

Given the abstract and undefined nature of hybridity, the building is shown in constant transition. The film’s protagonist experiments with different typologies of imagined hybrid spaces – spatially illustrating architectures that reference historical Indian architectural motifs and miniature paintings. The resulting architecture is a hybrid of Britain and India, the past and present, the real and imagined.

Still from "Letters from the Middle-Ground" By Vitika Agarwal
Still from "Letters from the Middle-Ground" By Vitika Agarwal

What to Read

Women in Design By Anne Massey
Thames & Hudson, 2023

This new publication explores the role of women in designing some of the most important objects in history. Many of these untold stories reveal the work of these unrecognized design pioneers.

Using a chronological timeline Massey considers the structural issues within the design industry that kept the work of female designers hidden and unacknowledged, the obstacles to their professional success, and the ways in which these inspiring women tackled these challenges and placed their work, and gradually themselves more center stage. Looking at the work of Anni Albers at the Bauhaus, the architects Eileen Gray and Zaha Hadid, interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, and fashion icon Mary Quant, the book shares how their design influence was deeply influential and far reaching.

Focusing on the key subjects of architecture, craft, fashion, furniture, graphics, interior, product, and textile design, author Anne Massey explores the link between early twentieth-century revolutionary design and lifestyle, as well as the idea of shopping and consumerism as liberatory. Massey also discusses the important contribution of designers during and after World War II, along with design activism, design collectives, and the current success of women working transnationally in architecture and design.

Cover of Women in Design By Anne Massey Thames & Hudson, 2023
Cover of Women in Design By Anne Massey Thames & Hudson, 2023

The Story of Art without Men By Katy Hessel
W. W. Norton & Company, May 2023

Katy Hessel has spent the last few years digging into the rich history of women in art through her wildly popular podcast ‘The Great Women Artists’, from historical female figures—some greatly underrecognized—to the most inspiring and radical contemporary women artists. Throughout this work she not only exposes new audiences to these women, but also tackles some of the larger questions of inequity in the creative fields. Providing much needed recognition for many of these powerful artists, this new book digs deep into the stories and lives of these creatives and as the Norton shares, this publication is, “ Overturning art history, from the Cornish coast to Manhattan, Nigeria to Japan, this is the history of art as it’s never been told before.” The book tackles a rewrite of art history one page, one artist at a time, and asks the questions…How many women artists do you know? Who makes art history?

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