Arnold Lehman On His Exhibition of Post-War American Women Artists at Phillips -ARTnews

Deborah Kass, After Louise Bourgeois, 2010, neon and transformers on powder-coated aluminum monolith.


A few weeks ago, Phillips auction house in New York installed the exhibition “Nomen: American Women Artists 1945 to Today,” curated by former Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman, who joined Phillips as a senior adviser four years ago. The exhibition, which runs through Saturday, August 3, consists of 70 works, including ones by Kay Walkingstick, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Betye Saar, Janine Antoni, Kiki Smith, Patricia Cronin, and Deborah Kass.

ARTnews Editor Sarah Douglas had a casual chat with Lehman in his office at Phillips a few weeks before the show opened, while he was finalizing it.

ARTnews: You can only include around 70 artists in this show. How many were on your original list?

Arnold Lehman: About 300. It’s hard to draw lines because I want to make this singularly an important event in terms of a kind of summation at the end of this decade of that period of 75 years. It’s also the hundredth anniversary of the nineteenth amendment, and I think it’s important to look back at that and to see where we are today, where finally women have a strong and often a leadership place in the visual arts. 

AN: Your exhibition starts in 1945, but in your research you were looking much earlier?

AL: At the beginning of the twentieth century, American women were going to Europe, studying in the academies, and becoming professional, and then coming back here and, as I’m saying in my text that will be in the exhibition, they wind up giving private art lessons to kids or other women because the galleries won’t show their work, the critics are not reviewing their work. At the end of the nineteenth century, beginning of the twentieth century, there were a couple of exclusively women artist exhibitions in Europe. But the exhibitions were only of drawings.

AN: Within the exhibition itself are there themes?

AL: Yes….

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