If you walk through the permanent displays of Australian art in most art galleries, chances are that up to 80% of the artworks you see will be by male artists. Where is the art by women artists? Why is it not there, and what does its absence tell us? Most importantly, how has this skewed perspective influenced the narratives conveyed by Australian art? And what view of Australia would we see if art by women made up 50% of the displays in our public collections?
Museums & Galleries of NSW is pleased to be working with the Cruthers Art Foundation to develop stage 1 of Filling the Gap – a national research project aimed at identifying generations of women artists who have been written out of the historical narratives of Australian art, and making them and their art available to future generations. The project looks at artists working from 1870 to 1960. Criteria for inclusion will include formal art training, membership of artists’ societies, regular exhibition of artworks, references in the press and representation in public collections. Stage 1 will survey New South Wales, with other states to follow. Stage 1 findings will available online in July 2017, with information available for all of Australia by 2020.
Today only a small proportion of women artists active across Sydney and NSW in the first half of the 20th century are well known. Changes in taste and short term thinking by curators have encouraged censorship around less familiar artists. At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, mid 20th century de-accessioning of supposedly minor and irrelevant artists removed many women’s artworks from the public eye. Family spare rooms and garages have on occasion offered a safer haven than major art museums.
Filling the Gap is managed by art historian Dr Juliette Peers, Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT, an expert in the research of women’s art. She co-curated the 1991-92 exhibition Completing the Picture: Women Artists and the Heidelberg Era. It is funded by the Cruthers Art Foundation, a Perth-based organisation focused on women artists and associated with the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art at The University of Western Australia. Project partner is Museums & Galleries NSW, which supports galleries, museums and Aboriginal cultural centres to maximise their impact and create strong and thriving local communities.
Juliette Peers began collecting data in Sydney in October 2016. She will also be traveling widely in rural and regional NSW visiting regional galleries and museums, art schools, libraries, archives and private collections. In advance of her visits, there will be call-outs to the public for information about family members, relatives or friends who may have been artists.
Filling the Gap is a radical research project that will bring generations of neglected and under-appreciated women artists back into the light, thus beginning to fill the gaps in the historical record. Through so doing it will provide a more complete picture of Australian art and open the way for researchers, historians and curators to propose new histories of our country’s visual art.
Dr Juliette Peers + 61 (0)405 201 925 | email@example.com
John Cruthers +61 (0)2 9550 4180 | +61 (0)433 020 237 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Rolfe +61 (02) 9339 9901 | email@example.com