Great Women Artists

Words Sarah-Lee Palmer-Hogan

Kissing in the Garden, 2016, Genieve Figgis, acrylic on panel

In the 1971 book of essays Woman in Sexist Society, Linda Nochlin, the feminist art historian, posed the question ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ She concluded that the arts, ‘as in a hundred other areas, are stultifying, oppressive and discouraging to all those, women among them, who did not have the good fortune to be born white, preferably middle class and, above all, male.’ Almost half a century later, and the inequality still exists, with male artists largely deemed to have the higher commercial and cultural value, and twice as many male winners or nominees than female for the Turner Prize. There is, however, a slow shift taking place, with increased female representation at leading galleries, including the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York (through its Women’s Project), the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and London’s Tate Modern under the vanguard of Frances Morris, the gallery’s first female director. Morris recognises that, ‘It’s very important we surface women’s work with strong retrospectives.’ Here we present five artists – Genieve Figgis, Sanam Khatibi, Sarah Meyohas, Azita Moradkhani and Adrienne Tarver – who we believe challenge the need for the ‘female artist’ category, as their work is not defined by their gender but by extraordinary talent and thought-provoking themes.

Gaze, 2016, Azita Moradkhani, coloured pencil

In the Eaves, 2014, Adrienne Traver, oil on canvas

Bound for Eternity, 2016, Genieve Figgis, acrylic on canvas

In my sweetheart’s arms, 2016, Sanam Khatibi, oil and pencil on canvas

Gaze, 2016, Azita Moradkhani, coloured pencil