In celebration of International Women’s Day, ArtNet News identified 26 women working in art that have inspired the industry.
It is not always easy being a woman in this world, and being a woman in the art world can be doubly challenging. Gallery rosters and museum collections around the world have been skewed against women for centuries, and many of today’s top institutions still have yet to appoint a female director. Even so, there is a vast community of women in the art world, dedicated to supporting and uplifting each other.
On this International Women’s Day, we looked to a group of art-world women who inspire us, and we asked them to take a moment to shine a light on some of the women who have inspired them. From mothers and grandmothers to feminist critic Linda Nochlin, who first called into question the apparent absence of great women artists—here are 26 women worth celebrating today and every day.
“As the daughter of this extraordinary woman, I can’t not mention Marisa Merz, both as an artist and also as a mother. I was guided and inspired by her quiet determination and her energy. Often going against what was rational, she lived by her own rules. These are qualities that, in addition to other things, I consider fundamental to be able to achieve one’s goals.”
—Beatrice Merz, president, Fondazione Merz, Torino, Italy
“The writing of Belgian philosopher Isabelle Stengers has been really influential in the thinking in my own work. I find her work provocative. It cuts through the illusions of our age to find alternative truths and gives me a sense of purposefulness. I think her concepts and writings are crucial for our time.”
—Emma Talbot, artist
“Linda Nochlin cleaved open history, beginning the field of feminist art history and scholarship; her work inspired me decades before we became friends in the early 2000s. She inspired my pursuit of feminist portraiture and storytelling, in her writing, and personally, from the sidelines, during visits to her home with opera, white wine, and long discussions about my work. Linda set an example for a life lived with generosity and curiosity alongside ground-shaking scholarship.
As I prepare for my first opera collaboration, a survey show of drawings this summer, a new book of drawings, marginalia, and text, and get ready for two exhibitions this spring in New York of ceramic sculpture and paper paintings, I am grateful to her for the example she set: follow the work, foremost, and worry about breaking things later.”
—Natalie Frank, artist
“Palma Bucarelli, the director of Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome. It was the first museum to reopen in Italy after the war in 1944. Her visionary choices led her to acquire and present contemporary abstraction by artists such as Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana with most of the cultural establishment against her. Bucarelli understood that museums had to be open to experimentation and not just conservation.”
—Ilaria Bonacossa, director, Artissima, Torino, Italy