Feminist philosophy of art: correcting the imbalance

Orlan between her fifth and sixth successful operations, feb. 1991.Germaine Greer has recently commented on what she perceives to be the failure of an exhibition of female artists named elles@centrepompidou to achieve its intention “to restore women to their rightful place in art history.” The show, which is currently on display in the Centre Pompidou, showcases sculpture, photography, video works, architecture and design from 200 female artists (including works by Orlan, pictured left). The collection is the result of five years of deliberately spending 40% of the acquisitions budget of the Musée National d’Art Moderne on artworks by female artists. Greer criticises the show’s limited sampling of works for not doing justice to each the female artists. Not only that, the collection gives the false impression that women are well represented in the art world. Greer also highlights the possibility of the audience perceiving (again falsely) a stagnation in women’s art with body art works on show from multiple generations of female artists.

The philosopher A.W. Eaton describes the feminist philosophy of art as a category in which all participants share the goal of “ending women’s subordination in the arts and discourses about the arts.” Questions investigated by philosophers in this area include: How does sex or gender influence art production and art reception? Should sex or gender influence art production or reception? Do the current theories of art only offer a male perspective on art? And if so, what should be done to correct the imbalance? Clearly given Greer’s comments on the premature celebration of the place of women in art history, which is still very much male dominated, the project of feminist philosophy of art is still an important area of investigation.

Germaine Greer’s comments can be found here.

The elles@centrepompidou exhibition website is here.

Related articles:
Feminist Philosophy of Art
A.W. Eaton , University of Illinois at Chicago
(Vol. 3, July 2008)
Philosophy Compass

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