Born from the Margins: Women Gallerists Creating New Markets, 1800-1990

Caterina Toschi, Università per Stranieri di Siena, University for Foreigners of Siena,

Veronique Chagnon-Burke, Independent Scholar, New York City,

In 1966, Linda Givon founded the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the goal of championing contemporary art as an agent of social change and political activism. Her work as a gallerist serves as the inspiration for this session, which purpose is to contribute to expanding our understanding of the development of the current global contemporary art canon. As co-founders of WADDA [Women Art Dealers Digital Archives,], the chairs have chosen to organize this session around women art dealers, who have either established their practice outside the US-Europe centric axis or have supported the careers of artists traditionally marginalized in major art market centers. Because of the project's long chronological span, we are also interested in seeing how through the 1800, the shifting status of the art dealer which was not yet professionalized, allowed women to act as agents for artists and advisors for private collectors often using their own agency because they were themselves artists.

This session hopes to illuminate how through their selection of artists or from the geographical space they operated from, these women gallerists brought to the center art that is now considered key to today’s contemporary art market.

Speakers & Abstracts

In the Hands of Women: ARCOmadrid as a Bridge between the European and Latin American Art Market

Marta Pérez Ibáñez (Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo (IAC), Madrid)


The first edition of the Madrid art fair ARCO, currently known as ARCOmadrid, took place in 1982 and brought together 365 artists from Europe and America. It was the gallery owner Juana de Aizpuru who initiated the project to rival other international fairs like Art Basel. Few people were aware, in 1982, of the impact that ARCO would have in Spain and in the world. From day one, the fair enjoyed great acceptance. Aizpuru managed to relaunch the art market in Spain with the strong support of the Ministry of Culture, Soledad Becerril, and the director of IFEMA at that time, Adrián Piera. ARCO was the starting point for the creation of a new, more open and plural Spain after the years of Franco’s dictatorship. Aizpuru managed the art fair until 1986. She was replaced by by Rosina Gómez-Baeza, who directed the fair for twenty years, contributing to the internationalization of contemporary Spanish art. During those twenty years, ARCO also became the meeting point for Latin American and European galleries, acting as a hinge between both continents, their artists, their galleries and their collectors.

But beyond the art market, this presentation, supported by recent scholarship will attests to the essential role that women have played in the development of the Spanish art market and its internationalization. ARCO, because of the work of great Spanish women gallerists, has become a key link to understand the complex international art system.

Four Women Art Gallerists in São Paulo: Monica Filgueiras, RaqueL Arnaud, Luisa Strina and Regina Boni

Marco Pasqualini de Andrade (Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil)

The aim of the paper is to bring light to four pioneer women who acted as art dealers in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, beginning their trajectories between 1960s and 1980s. They were significant to the rise of art market in the country, and they have contributed to the develop of contemporary artists, including women artists in the then precarious local art circuit.  Monica Filgueiras (1944) worked in the vanguard gallery Art Art and the polemic Galeria  Collectio before she and Raquel Arnaud (1935) opened the Gabinete de Artes Graficas in 1974, that was dedicated to works in paper. Arnaud worked simultaneously in the Galeria de Arte Global, a place owned by a big TV channel that promoted exhibitions with contemporary artists as Anna Maria Maiolino and Anna Bella Geiger. Both, in 1980, started solo careers. Luisa Strina (1943) opened her gallery in 1974 after studying art in the Escola Brazil with Luis Paulo Baravelli and Carlos Fajardo, artists that she showed beside Wesley Duke Lee, Nelson Leirner, nd Lygia Pape. Regina Boni (1943) also studied in Escola Brazil, but her trajectory began before, with fashion design to tropicalist singers. After living in Paris as assistant to Ceres Franco, she opened the Galeria São Paulo in 1980 with a project that welcomed young artists. Those women left consistent heritage to Brazilian art and their insertion in the global art market after 1990, when Strina first participated in Art Basel fair. To think about their work is urgent and necessary.

The Goodman Gallery: Past and Present 

Samantha Cundill (Arizona State University)

In the fifty-five years since its founding in 1966, Goodman Gallery of South Africa has established itself as a renowned and commercially successful art gallery of contemporary African art. Established during the height of apartheid by Linda Givon, Goodman Gallery proudly showed Black African artists amongst their white counterparts. As the art world and market has expanded globally, so has the role of commercial galleries in maintaining, creating, and establishing new international artists’ work to be exhibited and sold. With the market becoming ethnically and culturally inclusive, the gallery has been a pioneer in embedding those goals in its mission since the beginning. Because it is unusual for commercial galleries to have a long commitment to confronting power structures, I examine Goodman within a global context as both an anti-racist business and a space whose founder, and current owner, Liza Essers, seeks equal representation in the art world by exhibiting new and established artists, including Sue Williamson, Kapwani Kiwanga, and Shirin Neshat. Focusing on Goodman’s stated mission, I construct a narrative of an activist gallery as a critical space for social and political change within a global art market in representing a more diverse roster of artists.

Marta Tarabuła and her pioneering gallery in Kraków

Anna Markowska (University of Wroclaw, Poland)

Marta Tarabuła founded the Zderzak (English: bumper) gallery in 1985. At that time, she was in her mid-twenties and had just graduated from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków where she had been studying art history. An artist’s daughter, she had been deeply involved in art since her childhood. However, in the 1980s Polish culture went underground because the society was strongly polarized due to the imposition of martial law (1981-1983). That is why Zderzak started as a gallery not supported by the national patronage. She remained faithful to this idea even after the fall of the old regime and the democratization of the country. Although the gallery was initially conceived simply as a meeting place and a community center, by the end of the 1980s Tarabuła had already decided to create a commercial enterprise.

Tarabuła set herself two goals which she has always been faithful to: Firstly, to find and promote young promising artists and secondly, to include these emerging artists into the historical framework of post-war art. As a result of this second objective, Zderzak quickly became recognized and contributed to the development of not only private but also national collections.

Tarabuła’s gallery, founded as a free and independent enterprise outside of state censorship, stimulated and shaped the imagination of an entire generation. Undoubtedly, its pioneering role in changing the art scene before, during and after the political transformation period following the collapse of the USSR, is one of the most important in Poland.

Two Women Dealers Breaking New Ground in 1980s Los Angeles

Susan L. Power (Independent Scholar, Paris)

Although the West Coast has long been a haven for artists, the market for contemporary art in California has presented challenges arising from its peripheral location. Two Los Angeles-based women, both transplants from Chicago, defied the odds in establishing galleries at a time when the market for local artists was barely nascent: Tobey C. Moss Gallery and Koplin Galleries. Founded in 1978, the former started out with a focus on prints, whereas the latter built up the roster of the West Hollywood space she opened in 1982 with emerging artists and women photographers. At her eponymous gallery, Tobey Moss quickly identified a lack of recognition for mid-to late-career California artists, many of whom were women and/or from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds—Helen Lundeberg, June Wayne, Jay Rivkin, Dorr Bothwell in the 1980s, followed by Ruth Asawa, Betye Saar, Luchita Hurtado, and Claire Falkenstein, as well as Latino artists Frank Romero and Carlos Almaraz. On the other hand, Martha Koplin promoted then little-known African American artists Kerry James Marshall, Robert Colescott, and Lezley Saar in addition to other women working in painting, sculpture or photography—Ida Applebroog, Elyn Zimmerman, Joan Brown, Gisele Freund and Annie Leibovitz. This paper will examine how both women adopted different tactics to address the particularities of the Southern California context to promote then-overlooked artists—whose careers have soared in recent years—thereby taking risks to offer crucial support and visibility at a time when women, African American and Latino artists sorely lacked representation.

ReSisters: Art Dealing as a Feminist Practice, the Case of Studio Stefania Miscetti in Rome

Sibilla Panerai (Università degli studi G. D’Annunzio Chieti-Pescara, Italy)

This presentation analyzes the art dealer Stefania Miscetti, directress of the Studio Stefania Miscetti, based in Rome (Italy) since 1990. Her selling strategies are mostly engaged in works, installations and performances specially created for the city, as well as experimental publishing.

This case study will be analyzed from both an aesthetic and critical-theoretical perspective, in a multivocal discourse, which reveals the dealing strategy of Studio Miscetti as an agent of social change and political activism within the contemporary art system. Our proposal will particularly focus on the project She Devil, a selection of videos started in 2006 on female identity, which aims to value the work of marginalized women artists (from South Africa, India, Iran, Palestine, Israel, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Kuwait, and Afghanistan). As suggested by ReSisters, title of the tenth edition, She Devil embodies the concept of sorority, sisterhood as political solidarity among women. This concept theorized by the afro feminist author bell hooks has become central to the current feminist debate. According to this political strategy, the activity of Stefania Miscetti as an art dealer takes part in the deconstruction of the mechanisms of patriarchy. It brings to the center marginalized art, that is key to contemporary art production and to the art market.

Our research is done with the collaboration of Stefania Miscetti as well as from examining archival material from Galleria Nazionale in Rome.

Paula Cooper, Her Gallery, and Her Impact on Lynda Benglis, Jackie Winsor, Jennifer Bartlett, and Elizabeth Murray

Kristen Clevenson (Hunter College, New York City)

Paula Cooper is not considered a ‘feminist’ art dealer; however, the number of women she represented and the prominence she gave them in her gallery was, at the time, revolutionary. She established her eponymous gallery in 1968 at 96 Prince Street, in what was then the cultural hinterland south of Houston Street. In the years between 1969-1979—a decade in which feminism advanced in the public discourse and changed the writing of art history—Cooper introduced artists Lynda Benglis, Jackie Winsor, Jennifer Bartlett, and Elizabeth Murray. Working with their own pace of production, she gave them regular solo exhibitions, while also placing key works in thematic group shows. She ensured that their works entered museum institutions, were bought and appreciated by private collectors (of varied economic means), and determined that reviews of their exhibitions would compete favorably with the space devoted to their male peers. Today, each of these women are canonized in art history for their innovative materials and processes, imagery (including references to the female body), contribution to Post Minimalism, and resurgent figurative idioms. Yet their debt to Cooper is visible only in photograph credits, lender lists, and occasional mentions of important shows at her gallery. In examining exhibition reviews, acquisition records, oral histories, and archival materials, this paper demonstrates the degree to which this quietly powerful female dealer, Paula Cooper, worked hard behind the scenes and within the four walls of her gallery to shape the reception and success of these four artists.



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