New Tate film series 4. Unlock Art: Where Are The Women?

Unlock Art: Where are the Women?

Film still from Unlock Art: Where are the women? © Tate Films

Why are there so few good women artists?

How many times have we heard that said, and often by people who claim to possess some knowledge of art? The struggle by women artists to achieve representation in a male dominated (art) world is as contentious as it is diverse, and is tackled in Tate’s latest film in their Unlock Art series. The fifth of eight films, Where are the Women? is presented by actress Jemima Kirke.

Whilst the series is aimed at the ‘culturally curious,’ who may not necessarily possess an in-depth knowledge about art or art history, the film contains interesting anecdotes, key facts and debates that might inspire the most inveterate art lover. It highlights how women artists have been under-represented in art history, and includes stimulating examples of women artists’ contribution to art, and the way they employed innovative and often groundbreaking strategies in order to gain recognition and challenge the status quo around identity, race and sexuality, as well as gender discrimination.

I particularly liked the examples of Judith Leyster, a well known artist in 17th century Holland, who disappeared into obscurity after her death, with the consequence that many of her works were misattributed to fellow contemporary male artist Franz Hals; and Margaret Harrison, whose controversial drawing of Hugh Heffner dressed as a bunny girl sporting a penis contributed in London’s first feminist exhibition in 1971 being closed by the police.

Jemima Kirke, like other Unlock Art presenters, is a credible host. Although best known for her role Jessa Johansson on the HBO television series Girls, the British-born American majored in art and describes herself as an artist before an actress. Her tongue-in-cheek and deadpan style makes for a thought provoking and engaging film, which leaves us with the unresolved debate of how best to integrate women artists’ rightful place in the annals of art history.

Access the film at

Unlock Art: Where are the Women?

Film still from Unlock Art: Where are the Women? © Tate Films

Where are the women? © Tate Films

Film still from Unlock Art: Where are the Women? © Tate Films

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by Gowri Balasegaram
in Focus on Europe

Wed Development by Digital Art Factory