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Best art exhibitions in London 2020: the galleries showcasing inspiring artwork by female artists

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Megan Murray
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These brilliant and inspiring exhibitions in the capital are all by or about remarkable women. Feast your eyes.

London’s galleries and museums are full of world-famous work, but women have long been underrepresented in the art world and on their walls.

Why? For starters, there’s the fact that women were generally excluded from art academies and highly-prized apprenticeships – where men were trained in arts such as painting and sculpture – until the 20th century. 

The art skills that were deemed appropriate for women, such as weaving and embroidery, were dismissed as feminine and unsophisticated. And when women defied convention to enter the male-dominated world of fine art, they were often later erased from history – women like 19th century African-American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, or Suor Plautilla Nelli, the first-known female Renaissance painter. 

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Gender bias remains a major problem in the modern art world. In 2017, female artists accounted for just 4% of the National Gallery of Scotland’s collection and 20% of the Whitworth Manchester’s, and less than a quarter (22%) of solo shows presented by London’s major commercial galleries were by women artists. According to a report by the Freedlands Foundation, a charity that supports UK artists, art education and cultural institutions, “women continue to be excluded from the mainstream commercial art market despite their best efforts to participate”.

These grim statistics make it all the more important to search out and support exhibitions featuring work by female artists, past and present.

Below, we’ve rounded up upcoming exhibitions at galleries and museums in London which focus on the work of women artists.

We’ll keep adding to this guide throughout 2020, so make sure to save it to your bookmarks. 

  • Peony Gent at House of Illustration

    Illustrator Peony Gent will be the Artist in Residence at House of Illustration’s South Gallery from 3 July until 18 October, showcasing her thought provoking work. 

    Gent is a prolific story teller: not only do her illustrations often give the appearance of having a whole world of context behind them, but she also writes poetry and produces comic books. 

    Her exhibition is sure to be both fascinating in content and appearance.

    Where: 2 Granary Square, Kings Cross, London N1C 4BH

    When: 3 July until 18 October 2020

    How much: £8

  • Dora Maar at Tate Britain

    French photographer, painter and poet, Dora Maar, produced an extraordinary amount of work over her long-spanning career, across a plethora of mediums. 

    Her unique eye and desire for the abstract made her work fascinating whether it was being used in fashion photography, advertising, or to express her feelings towards her lover Pablo Picasso.

    The Tate Modern is showing a monumental collection of her work, calling it the “most comprehensive retrospective of Maar ever held”.

    Where: Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG

    When: 20 November 2019 until 15 March 2020

    How much: £13

  • Women By Women at OXO Gallery

    Best art exhibitions London 2020: Women by Women

    To celebrate International Women’s Day coming up on 8 March, ActionAid is exhibiting a collection of photos at the OXO Tower Gallery which will showcase the stories of women and girls captured by talented local, female photographers.

    Not only will the project give exposure to the struggles these women are going through, it also shines a light on the creatives in these areas and their skill. It aims to show the observer a meeting of two women – a photographer and a subject – to share empowering stories, shatter stereotypes and control how they, and their lives are represented.

    Particularly, the photographs lift up women who are breaking down barriers, from working in Afghanistan’s parliament to running a coffee cooperative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Where: gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH

    When: 5 March 2020 until 8 March 2020

    How much: Free

  • Sixty Years at Tate Britain

    Best art exhibitions London 2019: Bridget Riley at The Tate
    Best art exhibitions London 2020: Bridget Riley at The Tate

    In recent years, several galleries and museums have announced plans to make their collections and exhibitions more inclusive. As part of Tate Britain’s effort, it is mounting Sixty Years, a display dedicated to women artists working in Britain between 1960 and the present day. Featured artists will include Mona Hatoum, Sarah Lucas, Bridget Riley and Mary Martin, with a collection of film, multimedia, photography, sculpture, painting and more.

    Where: Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG

    When: 22 April 2019 until April 2020

    How much: Free

    Image: Bridget Riley’s Achæan (1981) will be among the works on display as part of Sixty Years. © Bridget Riley

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Images: Unsplash / Instagram / Tate Britain 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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