A wasted opportunity: Bustes de Femmes at Gagosian Gallery

The exhibition Bustes de Femmes has just closed at Gagosian Gallery in Paris. It was the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the venue and it showed the very best artists Gagosian has to offer.

The exhibition aimed to “demonstrate how the female figure has been reimagined and reconfigured by modern and contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds and traditions”. It was supposed to be a compendium of different interpretations of the female body in art. An occasion to show how contemporary art relate to the subject and reconfigure its representation.

But why do we need a reconfiguration? It is well known that in the Western art history the female body has been represented almost only through the male gaze and for male consumption. It doesn’t matter if the subject was mythological, historic, or real, the woman on the canvas was probably naked, or almost naked, and she was there, depicted by a man, just to be seen by another man. Every single painting or sculpture was a representation of the way men saw women, how they were, but mostly how they were supposed to be to meet men’s expectations.

La Grande Odalisque, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1814

For this reason we absolutely need a reconfiguration. We need another perspective on the female representation, we need to abandon the male gaze and watch the female nature under a new light. It seems difficult to change the very basis of western art history, but the solution is actually very simple. We just have to substitute the word representation with auto-representation. We have to finally let women speak for themselves about themselves. It seems very obvious to me, but apparently I am extremely revolutionary.

In the exhibition Bustes de Femmes, Gagosian displays 28 artists, 5 of which are women.

In an exhibition about the reconfiguration of the female figure in art, just 5 artists out of 28 are women.

I think something is profoundly wrong here. I am not saying that the male artists in the show are not worthy or are not capable of giving an inspiring representation of the female figure. That is not the point. The point is that women have been told how to be women for centuries. They have been forced to adapt to men ideals. They have been oppressed and silenced. It doesn’t matter how bright and revolutionary a man interpretation can be. It is just another woman’s voice unheard because a man spoke for her. It is just another woman deprived of her auto-determination right.

Auto-determination is auto-representation and vice-versa.

Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? Guerrilla Girls, 1989

Now that finally we are beginning to understand the twisted mechanism behind our patriarchal society we cannot accept this kind of exhibitions. Gagosian and his team have a responsibility. Being one of the biggest gallerists in the world means he has power and he must use this power to, at least, put up a good show.

This exhibition was clearly poorly thought. They wanted to have an exhibition for the anniversary, they wanted to show as many artists as possible, they tried to fit all the biggest names under a vague but catchy concept, et voila’ another wasted opportunity.

Exhibitions like the above mentioned are toxic and are just another way of reinforcing the patriarchy vision. Pretending to innovate and reconfigure and reimagine and all the nice words you can find in a press release, they just reiterate the status quo over and over.

Art should lead cultural progress, it is extremely sad when art people forget it.

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