From May 2017, mumok is presenting more than 300 artworks from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND collection that show how women artists in the 1970s first began to collectively redefine their own image of woman. As this significant artistic movement has been neglected in art histories to date, the collection director, Gabriele Schor, coined the term ”feminist avant-garde” and introduced it into art-historical discourse—with the aim of highlighting these artists’ pioneering work. This thematic exhibition at mumok and a comprehensive scholarly catalogue both contribute to expanding the male dominated avant-garde canon.
In the 1970s women artists emancipated themselves from the roles of muse and model, rejecting their status as objects in order to assert themselves as subjects actively participating in social and political processes. One-dimensional role ascriptions as mothers, homemakers, or wives were radically challenged—often using strategies of irony. Key themes were the discovery of female sexuality, the use of women’s own bodies, countering clichés and stereotypical images of women, the dictate of beauty, and creating awareness for violence against women. The women artists of this generation were united in their committed rejection of traditional normative notions of how women were expected to live. “It is exciting to see that these artists developed comparable strategies of the image, even though they did not all know each other,” Gabriele Schor explains.
The exhibition is divided into four sections:
The Reduction to Mother, Housewife, and Wife
Alter Ego: Masquerade, Parody, and Roleplays
Female Sexuality versus Objectification
The Normativity of Beauty
“It is important and fortunate for both the city of Vienna and mumok to be able to show these works on the feminist avant-garde from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND collection. These works complement mumok’s own collection with its focus on socially relevant art of the 1960s, such as Vienna Actionism—a movement that was implemented entirely by men. Here, many questions and issues were raised that were to play a role in the 1970s with a new and broader perspective—this time in developments that were largely implemented by women. In their works, they formulate answers to the ways in which men approached their work as artists. I am delighted to be able to present this significant collection at mumok,” says mumok general director Karola Kraus.
This exhibition is not a women’s exhibition, but a thematic exhibition. It brings together artists born between 1930 and 1958. There is a total of 48 European, North and South American artists, including eight Austrians: Renate Bertlmann (born 1943), Linda Christanell (born 1939), VALIE EXPORT (born 1940), Birgit Jürgenssen (1949–2003), Brigitte Lang (born 1953), Karin Mack (born 1940), Friederike Pezold (born 1945), and Margot Pilz (born 1936).