2019 marks the 10th year past a decade since the first ever celebration of the International Women’s Day. Purposed to magnify the attention on social, political, economic, and cultural issues faced by women, the celebration is a historical timestamp that advocates for the recognition of their contributions and achievements. While significant improvement has been observed across these facets, the art industry faces a steeper hike towards the betterment of female representation which severely hinders the diversification within the sector. In 1985, feminist activist artists the Guerrilla Girls produced an analysis report for the aggregate of women artists with solo shows within a few of the prominent museums of New York City, revealing that there was only one exhibition at most. Their follow-up findings later in 2012 presented the public with the increment of the numbers in the same museums to be near negligible. Their investigations into the institutionalisation of inequitable practices by major art establishments amplify the need to rectify the gender parity issues faced my many remarkable female artists who lack the opportunities to par off with their male counterparts.
The Art Connects Women – International Women Exhibition’s inauguration in 2017 opened the curtains in Dubai to ZeeArt’s curatorial feat of bringing centre stage to an extensive international line-up of women artists and their artworks. This year, under the theme Balance for Better, artist-activist and founder of ZeeArts, Zaahirah Muthy, makes no reservation in challenging the ensemble of women artists to produce art that addresses the call-to-action for driving gender balance and women empowerment, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure. Hosted at the One&Only Royal Mirage, the exhibition ran its extended period from 7th – 15th March and received 88 international women artists who each represented 88 countries with works of diverse mediums and disciplines at the show.
Adjunct to the exhibition were four days of creative and cultural itineraries that augment the overall experience for the artists and guests. Aside from a desert safari tour and gala dinner, the participants were also engaged in a conference in collaboration with Alliance Française Dubai, where panellists from an eclectic mix of industries attempt to dissect the progression of gender equality within the fabric of society. This instalment of the International Women’s Art Exhibition doubles up as a launch pad for the newly minted Women Artists Around the World art book initiative. The compendium serves to archive the documentation of the artists and their artworks which may be purchased for perusal.
While the curtains may have been brought down on this instalment of the International Women’s Art Exhibition 2019, the stage on which distinguished women artists stood has been vacated to make way for a more understanding and accommodating future for the Creative community. Zaahirah Muthy reiterates that “The art industry is an ecosystem of contributors and supporters that goes beyond the artists.” While artists may be regarded as the nucleus of the art world, the likes of gallerists, curators, docents, etc. are imperative for their provision of services that keeps the art world afloat, and in these positions are also women who are relentless in committing their skills and passion towards the amelioration of the human condition within the Creative sector and beyond.
The International Women’s Art Exhibition 2020 will return for its 4th edition next year.