artists & participants

Berenice AbbottCarla AccardiSharon AdamsonEtel AdnanHilma af KlintAnni AlbersLaure Albin-GuillotGertrud ArndtRuth AsawaElena AsinsTeresa BakerMaringka BakerVanessa BellLynda BenglisLee BontecouMartha BotoLouise BourgeoisTrisha BrownJagoda BuicNyunmiti BurtonWawiriya BurtonMary Ellen ButeMarcelle CahnHuguette CalandRegina Cassolo BracchiRosemarie CastoroGianinna CensiJudy ChicagoLucinda ChildsIrene ChouSaloua Raouda ChoucairLygia ClarkCarlotta CorpronNellie CoulthardtParvine CurieImatjala CurleyMadeline CurleyAngkaliya Eadie CurtisElaine De KooningValentine de Saint-PointSonia Delaunay-TerkGermaine DulacElizabeth DunnAlice Essington NelsonAlexandra ExterClaire FalkensteinMonir FarmanfarmaianEsther FerrerHelen FrankenthalerOlga Fröbe-KapteynLoie Fuller GegoTjangali GeorgeNatalia GontcharovaTuppy GoodwinMarcia HafifHarmony HammondMary HeilmannFlorence HenriBarbara HepworthCarmen HerreraSheila HicksMarta HoepffnerGeorgiana HoughtonLotte JacobiVirginia JaramilloTess JarayWipana JimmyNyurpaya KaikaNaomi KantjurinyBarbara KastenSylvia KenTjungkara KenIlluwanti KenIlona KeserüHelen KhalKatarzyna KobroBenita Koch-OtteBela KolarovaLee KrasnerGermaine KrullIda LanskyBice LazzariPanjiti LewisVerena LoewensbergEduarda Emilia MainoBarbara MaplesAgnes MartinDora MaurerMarie MenkenPaniny MickAlison Milyka CarrollMona MitakikiJoan MitchellNasreen MohamediVera MolnarBarbara MooreMarlow MossTania MouraudBetty MufflerAurelia MunozElizabeth MurrayAurelie NemoursLouise NevelsonVera PagavaGret PaluccaMarta PanMary PanLygia PapeAlicia PenalbaHowardena PindellLiubov PopovaTjimpayie PresleyBridget RileyDorothea RockburneOlga RozanovaZilia SanchezHelen SaundersLillian SchwartzArpita SinghJanet SobelVarvara StepanovaHedda SterneGunta StölzlSophie Taeuber-ArpAtsuko TanakaLenore TawneyElsa ThiemannCarlene ThompsonMeredith TreacleIngrid TreacleAnyupa TreacleKani Patricia TunkinMaria Helena Vieira da SilvaAlma Woodsey Thomas Wook kyung ChoiJulie YaltangkiPuna YanimaTingila YoungYaritji YoungFahrelnissa Zeid 


press release

Women in Abstraction
October 22, 2021–February 27, 2022

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Women in Abstraction, an exhibition sponsored by the BBVA Foundation that shares a new vision of the history of abstraction from its origins to the 1980s through the works of more than 100 female artists that span visual arts, dance, photography, film, and decorative arts. Through a chronological presentation, the exhibition reveals the process of invisibilization that marked the work of these artists and highlights milestones from the history of abstraction, questioning esthetic canons without defining a new one.

Women in Abstraction goes beyond the idea that art history is a succession of pioneering practices, and by according female artists a new place within that history, it proves how complex and diverse it is. This can be seen at the very beginning of the exhibition which opens with an unprecedented foray into the 19th century presenting the rediscovery of Georgiana Houghton’s work from the 1860s, undermining the chronological origins of abstraction by tracing it back to its spiritualist roots. Houghton’s work illustrates “sacred symbolism,” one of the themes explored in the exhibition. The spiritualism in vogue in the 1850s constituted a major pathway into abstraction. Women were its precursors in the 19th century: they were the first to invent an abstraction that was not conceptualized as such, defined as a sacred symbolism drawn from a desire to represent the transcendent. The exhibition also shines a spotlight on key figures through mini monographs highlighting artists who have been unfairly eclipsed or rarely shown in Europe. In the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, the specific educational, social, and institutional contexts that surrounded and encouraged or, conversely, hindered the recognition of women are brought to light. The exhibition reveals why many women artists did not necessarily seek recognition. It considers the positions of the artists themselves, with all their complexities and paradoxes. Some, like Sonia Delaunay-Terk, adopted a non-gendered position while others, like Judy Chicago, laid claim to a feminine art.

This female version of history challenges the limitation of the study of abstraction to painting alone, which is one of the reasons that many women have been excluded, given that such a modernist approach rejected the spiritualist, ornamental, and performative dimensions of abstraction. The perspective is also a global one. The energy of the Parisian scene in the 1950s is underlined by examples of surprising stylistic combinations, with the works of the Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair, Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera and Turkish artist Fahrelnissa Zeid. The exhibition also explores the modernities of Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, not to mention the African American artists whose multiple voices only benefited from certain visibility from the early 1970s onwards to tell their story with several voices and reach beyond the Western canon.

Curators: Christine Macel, Chief Curator at the Centre Pompidou; Karolina Lewandowska, Curator of Photography and Director of the Museum of Warsaw, in collaboration with Lekha Hileman Waitoller, Curator at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Exhibition organized by the Centre Pompidou Paris in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Sponsored by: Fundación BBVA