A national museum for women in the arts does that mean documenting their work or segregating them.
A national museum for women in the arts – does that mean documenting their work or segregating them,asks Purabi Shridhar
Women they say, hold up half the sky but in the artistic world, the arrangement still appears to be lopsided. Not many mainstream national museums seem to be holding out a platform for women artists. It is this that led, 20 years ago, to the creation of the first National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC.
Do women still get the short shrift when it comes to the artistic arena where gender is said to be irrelevant? More than two decades ago, art collector Wilhelmina Cole Halladay thought so. Perturbed over the fact that mainstream museums were leaving women artists out in the cold, she set up the NMWA to primarily discover the works of women artists, who were either overlooked or unacknowledged and, more important, to ensure the legacy of women in art. The NMWA now houses over 3,500 works and is credited with several path breaking shows and activities. Twenty years down the line, India isgearing up to replicate the success story.
VENUS AND MARS?
Is a separate museum for women not defeating the purpose by segregating women artists? No, says Judy Larson of NMWA, who headed the high-powered all-women delegation to Delhi recently to set the ball rolling for the Indian counterpart. “Are we talking of ghettoising? I don’t think so,” she said, before adding: “The intention is not to separate women, instead I’d like to create parity between men and women. The criticism about ghettoising is natural but that is not the purpose. The simple fact is that we still need to put the spotlight on women in the arts. We’re on the way, it’s a journey.”
A full-scale attempt is on to set up India’s own NMWA, and not just an Indian chapter. Heading the Indian committee is renowned architect and interior designer Sun ita Kohli. According to her, “The whole thing started when I was attending a seminar on national building in the States. The initial idea was to start an Indian chapter, from there it was decided – why not an Indian counterpart instead of just a chapter.” The Indian committee presently has names like Pheroza Godrej, Deborah Thiagarajan, Rakhi Sarkar, Priya Paul, Priti Paul, Jutta Jain, Kohelika Kohli, Shobha Bhartia, Sofia Blake, Mila Oberoi, Rajshree Pathy, Smitia Ruia, among others. The delegation also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and indications are that land for the project would be sanctioned soon.
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