In August 1920, the historic passing of the 19th Amendment guaranteed women in the United States the right to vote. To mark the upcoming centennial of women’s suffrage, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced this August that all of its programming through 2020 will be dedicated to the works of female-identifying artists, with a rotating schedule of 13 solo exhibitions and 7 thematic shows that highlight women’s contributions to art history. More recently, the Baltimore institution vowed to push its year-long initiative, dubbed 2020 Vision, another step further, declaring that every artwork purchased in 2020 for the museum’s permanent collection will have been created by a woman.
The latest policy, which was announced on November 14 by museum director Christopher Bedford, is part of the BMA’s ongoing plan to address race and diversity gaps in museum collections—including within the Baltimore institution itself, where just 3,800 of 95,000 pieces in the permanent holdings were made by female artists. “The goal for this effort is to rebalance the scales and to acknowledge the ways in which women’s contributions still do not receive the scholarly examination, dialogue, and public acclaim that they deserve,” Bedford said earlier this year in a statement announcing 2020 Vision. In regard to the BMA’s most recent objective, Bedford told the Baltimore Sun, “This how you raise awareness and shift the identity of an institution. . . . To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical.”
2020 Vision programming runs throughout the duration of next year at the BMA, but the first of its 22 scheduled exhibitions debuted on October 6 with By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists. On view through July 5, 2020, the thematic exhibit focuses on female artists who influenced major 20th-century movements—among them Georgia O’Keeffe, Maria Martinez, and Amalie Rothschild. Next up, a site-specific installation will transform BMA’s two-story East Lobby into a living room decorated with colorful wallpapers and furnishings by Mickalene Thomas, the visual artist best known for her paintings composed of rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel. Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure, marks the largest commission to date for the African American artist, whose previous subjects include Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. (The large-scale installation is on view from from November 24, 2019, through May 2021.)
Confirmed dates for many exhibits from the museum’s 2020 Vision program have yet to be announced, but visitors can look forward to exhibits featuring a collection of American Indian beadworks made by 19th-century Lakota women; a showcase under the working title Women Behaving Badly that examines visual representations of female power and protest in European and American art; and a retrospective of works by artist Joan Mitchell, sourced from both public and private collections.
Before the year ends, the BMA will welcome two more female-focused exhibits, both of which feature contributions to craftmaking by women in the 20th century. Adorned: African Women and the Art of Identity brings together clay, cloth, and bead works from across sub-Saharan Africa (from December 11, 2019, through June 19, 2020), and Free Form: 20th-Century Studio Craft presents embroidery, ceramics, and jewelry made by midcentury American artists—many of whom were immigrants to the United States—from December 18, 2019, through June 7, 2020.
This article originally appeared online in August 2019; it was updated on November 20, 2019, to include current information.
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