Words by Smiley Team
Pause for a second and think about a famous artist. Who comes to mind? Van Gogh, Picasso, and maybe some of the Rennaissance painters like Michaelangelo and Leondardo DeVinci, perhaps?
Those artists – and many of the most famous artists in history – have one thing in common: they’re men. In art history, and the cultural perception of art, women are often left at the wayside.
A study published in the online journal PLOS One in March 2019 found men accounted for 87% of the artists in the permanent collections of 18 major museums in the United States. Later that year, a joint investigation by Artnet News and Art Agency, Partners, an art advisory firm, found only 11% of all acquisitions at 26 leading American museums were of work by female artists.
A museum in Muskegon, Michigan is looking to hold a spotlight on women throughout art and art history.
The Muskegon Museum of Art, founded in 1912 is a mid-sized museum, in a town with a population of just over 37,000. The exhibit has over 5,000 pieces, and with the help of San Antonio–based collectors Steven Alan Bennett and Elaine Melotti Schmidt, they'll be adding one of the only permanent museum exhibition spaces dedicated to female-identifying artists.
Their contribution will be in the form of more than 150 paintings from some 115 artists, and $1.5 million in cash to build a new museum wing for work by women artists.
Among the paintings is a self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi, depicting herself as the Greek goddess of history, a nude by Elaine de Kooning, and a portrait by Mary Cassette. Some pieces will always be on display, but much of the exhibit will be in the rotation.
The disparity of gender in art is the reason why Bennett and Schmidt began collecting.
“We approach collecting like look, we don’t have anything against male artists, we are not trying to say anything bad about anybody, but our focus from the beginning was the women artists who had been neglected by major art museums and galleries,” Bennett said.
The donation comes at a time when the museum was already expanding, nearly doubling its square footage. The full project is slated to be done in 2024.
DONATE: If you’re so inclined, the Muskegon Museum of Art accepts donations.
SUPPORT: Support those in your life that do art, that create, and that want to share their creation. A strong support system can make all the difference.