Leading the Charge Against Sexism

Curator Tine Colstrup shared the community involvement and emphasis on showing the artwork of female artists at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.

PROVO, Utah (Oct. 31, 2017)—In many ways, Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is unique. One of the most obvious is the space which was renovated and extended from an old villa, creating easily accessible areas. “Unlike many culture buildings and museums, everything is on a human scale,” commented Tine Colstrup, the museum’s curator. “You relate to the art on the same level. It’s not elevated, but instead is approachable.” The museum also features long, glass hallways so patrons feel as though they are walking through a nice, covered walkway in a beautiful garden rather than an intimidating museum. Tine Colstrup spoke about these architectural features and other unique aspects of the museum in a lecture sponsored by the Women’s Studies and Interdisciplinary Humanities programs.

The Louisiana Museum also sets itself apart from many others by its late hours. Tuesday through Friday the museum is open until 10 p.m. with lectures, film screenings, and artist talks. “We want the community to be engaged with the museum,” Colstrup explained. “Not many people have time to visit the museum before 5 p.m. so this is a way that the community can come and enjoy the art. We had to cut Mondays from our schedule to make it work, but the benefits have been incredible.” Since this change, the Louisiana has become a bustling center of conversation in the local community with many more full-time working adults coming to visit.

The museum is also a leading figure in the charge against the institutionalized sexism of the art world. Since 2010, the museum has launched several major exhibitions featuring Paula Modersohn-Becker, Hilma af Klint, Louise Bourgeois, Marina Abramovic—all artists who overcame various challenges because of their sex. “It happened really organically. It wasn’t like we sat down and decided to include more artists who are female, it just kind of happened,” Colstrup said. “We very deliberately decided to not have a press release or any sort of ‘formal strategy.’ It’s just been a natural process to include more women. Now we’re getting all sorts of positive comments because people have started to notice, but we never sought out attention.”

One important factor in overcoming sexual discrimination of artists is the language critics use to discuss artists and their work. Colstrup shared her observation, “when we talk about male artists, we use their last names (Picasso, Pollock, etc.). When we talk about female artists, we more often use their first (Artemisia, Paula, etc.). Talking about artists in this way makes them sound more like cute little girls in kindergarten than artists who contributed positively to the history of art.”

Another instance of sexist language Colstrup has seen is in press releases and other publications. When the museum announced their exhibition of the works of Yayoi Kusama, one press release called her the “new darling” of the Louisiana Museum. “We would never refer to a male artist that way. No one would ever call Picasso ‘Pablo the new darling.’ We need to reformulate the way we talk about these women.” The language we use to discuss female artists is just one of the factors Colstrup attributes to the difficulty women face finding respect and success.

Under the leadership of Tine Colstrup, the Louisiana Museum is a leader in the effort to revolutionize the art museum experience. It strives to be aesthetically pleasing, physically and intellectually accessible to a wider audience, and inclusive of all genders in exhibitions. The Louisiana is changing the way the public experiences art.

Hannah Sandorf Davis (B.A. Art History and Curatorial Studies ’17)

Hannah covers events for the Women’s Studies Program for the College of Humanities. She is a senior pursuing a degree in art history with a minor in art.

Image: Klint,  The Large Figure Paintings, no. 5, 1907 

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons