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Art and the Women’s Movement in the UK 1970–1990

New for 2022

This research group is focused on questions of women’s art practice, particularly that from the 1970’s and 80’s which has been largely overlooked in British art history. At its heart it is a commitment to the expansion and acknowledgement of complex historical truths: who were these female artists, what kind of activism were they engaged in? Why is their work so hard to find? Why is it only held in very particular collections? How do wider socio-political moments (equal pay act, race discrimination act, Thatcher, AIDS crisis) affect their work?

The research group is connected to a forthcoming exhibition at Tate Britain which will be held from October 2023 – April 2024 and will then travel to The Whitworth where its content will emphasise regional contexts, particularly that of the North of England. The exhibition, curated by Linsey Young, with Zuzana Flaskova will provide a re-framing of British art history that foregrounds the work of female artists engaged with the women’s movement. It is the first exhibition of its kind that will tell this story from a British perspective. We anticipate that the exhibition will include 100 artists and artist collectives working between 1970 – 1990 whose work is closely linked to political and social activism, topics that will be explored include: Miss World Protests, the Women’s Liberation Art group conferences, Greenham Common, Punk and Rock Against Racism, the emergence of women in the Black British Art Movement, South Asian women artists and lesbian artists and AIDS activism. Generating new research and forming collaborative relationships across the country is an essential part of this research.

Primary research questions for the group include

  • Who were the artists who were making work in this period and how were they connected to one another?
  • What was the impact of the socio-political movements and moments of the time to the artwork that was created, in terms of material, working processes and dissemination of work?
  • Why are these stories so hard to find? What and who led to these artists and their artworks disappearing from public view.

The Art and the Women’s Movement Research Group is led by Linsey Young (Curator British Contemporary Art, Tate), Poppy Bowers (Senior Curator, Exhibitions, The Whitworth) and Zuzana Flaskova (Assistant Curator Modern and Contemporary Art, Tate)

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