Art at the Pompidou “Frazzled by Feminism”

There’s a rather confusing write up over at the AFP correspondent news blog about the press conference announcing a major exhibition on women artists at the Pompidou museum in Paris.

Aside from the possible alarm bells one could get from Claire Rosemberg’s description of the exhibition as a “worthy PC event” and the fact she sees fit to include the fact she was late for the conference, there are pointers in the piece to suggest she might possibly dig the feminist vibe of it all. Firstly, she says she thought it would be an “interesting” news conference and that the stated plans for the exhibition “sounded good.” To her credit, she also seems to take a critical view of the fact that there were three men on the panel at the conference, each in charge of a key institution, in comparison to two women in apparently less powerful positions. (I’m not too sure about her description of those women as mere curators but I appreciate the point I think Rosemberg is making.)

The thing I find problematic is the subsequent framing of what sounds to me like a perfectly reasonable debate as some kind of jolly old farce where, overall, feminist causes come out looking like they’re somehow more trouble than they’re worth. True, Rosemberg does seem to be raising a (feminist?) eyebrow about the head of sponsor Yves Rocher saying the brand “never stereotypes women.” One could also say the same about her inclusion of one journalist’s comment that “it would be more appropriate to hold an exhibition where half the artists were women and the other half were men.” I just think that, by and large, what she highlights actually goes to show that some very pertinent questions were asked and that this makes the following conclusion positively disheartening:

And so it went, on and on, a great free-for-all funny feminist moment, with the men in the dock, quietly and with all due respect, saying: “but we are the first museum in the world ever to have done this”.

The expo, which involves the Pompidou showing works by women from its own modern and comtemporary collection, the biggest in Europe, starts May 27. There will probably be lots more lively debate between now and then which may see the PC institution regret its bid to do right by gender.

Ungrateful feminists eh? Spoiling it for everyone with their critiques. But, seriously, I’m struggling to fathom what Rosemberg’s point is. Does she see addressing feminist concerns as a matter of box-ticking or lip-service and that women ought to be happy to leave it at that? What exactly is wrong with appraising an apparent effort to address inequality in order to gauge its effectiveness? Isn’t that to be expected? Okay, so feminism could always do better in terms of noting and celebrating what it has achieved so far. I just find it odd that the debate and critique stemming from an institution taking a step in the right direction can be so easily dismissed as little more than some ridiculous spectacle.

This article was sourced from the Yahoo News page where, for a limited amount of time, you can find a discussion on positive discrimination in the comments about the piece.

Photo by ricardo.martins, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

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