The European Museum of Modern Art, better known as the MEAM, is housed in Palau Gomis, a beautifully restored 18th century Renaissance-style palace located among rows of historic buildings lining the enchanting narrow streets of El Born quarter, in Barcelona, Spain.
Since its opening in 2011, the MEAM’s goal is to encourage and support contemporary expressions of figurative art articulated in present-day skill-based language. It differentiates itself from other modern art museums by actively supporting living realist and representational artists, functioning as an important and increasingly influential counterweight against the myopic marketing of modernist art by governing tastemakers and art speculators.
The director and founder of the MEAM, architect José Manual Infiesta, is passionate about pursuing a change in society’s prevalent ideas surrounding contemporary art, eloquently described in his powerful manifesto — an interesting and compelling read.
Infiesta has been exceptionally successful in building up a sublime collection of contemporary figurative art, with regularly changing painting and sculpture exhibitions, concerts, workshops, as well as organizing Figurativas, the celebrated biannual painting and sculpture competition which attracts entries from around the world. The museum’s red-carpet inaugurations are spectacularly elegant yet intimate and enriching. These are calendar highlights where artists and art lovers from all over the world congregate, connect, find real friendship, and celebrate Art. Together with his welcoming staff, Infiesta has turned the MEAM into a place of pilgrimage.
An Exhibition celebrating Women and our Passion for Art
On International Women’s Day — March 8th, 2021 — the MEAM inaugurated the exhibition Women Painting ◦ All over the World, presenting an international selection of paintings and drawings. The museum invited 80 artists of 25 different nationalities to present one artwork each that epitomizes their best work. Despite the impediments and complications due to the global Covid-19 pandemic restricting the carefree inaugurations and spontaneous travel of before, the satisfaction of being included in this prestigious exhibition certainly leads to renewed hope, enthusiasm, and a surge of positive energy for all of us.
Over the course of art history, women artists have suffered a notable lack of inclusion and opportunity. In the past half century, this omission is slowly being corrected although not as expeditiously as most would like. Recent studies found that, but for a few notable exceptions, artists’ gender consistently affects how artwork is valued. On average, art created by women is priced considerably lower compared to equivalent art created by men. This imbalance is even more pronounced when it comes to inclusion in museum exhibitions and museum collections worldwide. If you (still) have any qualms about gender inequity in the arts, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington DC, presents an easily digestible overview of eye-opening facts.
Clearly it is of utmost importance that museums play a leading role in correcting these disparities to improve equity between genders. The MEAM, affectionally known as La Casa de los Artistas (the House of Artists) is doing just that. Indeed, this is the third all-female exhibition that the museum is hosting; in 2018 the exhibition Mujeres Artistas Hoy showed artwork by 26 Spanish painters and 12 sculptors, and in 2019 the exhibition Painting Today / Pintando Hoy showed artwork by 47 international painters. This year’s exhibition increases individual participation to a far greater extent by allowing one artwork per artist, thus including more artists than ever before.
Affirmative action — in this case, having an all-women’s exhibition — seeks to create vital opportunities for female artists. Participation in a prominent museum exhibition denotes prestige, yet also entails that participants bear a serious responsibility to show their best work, as it not only represents the individual, but female artists in general as well. Of course, most of us would much rather prefer to have our artwork assessed for itself, beyond gender. We already know that gender by no means defines ability, creativity, or vision, and this exhibition proves that yet again.
Women Painting ◦ All over the World
Women Painting ◦ All over the World presents a wealth of subject matter created from the point of view of 80 different women. For contributing artists, this exhibition is akin to looking in a mirror and seeing a strange world; an alternative reality where women artists have power and authority. Affirmative actions, such as those advanced by this museum, not only give us the opportunity to shine, but will undoubtedly also invite healthy discussion, perhaps leading to new and valuable insights. It’s another small step towards a more balanced and fair-minded artworld, and significant progress towards a new day when affirmative action isn’t necessary anymore.
While the life of an artist is solitary, this exhibition brings together creative expressions originating from a variety of cultural backgrounds. These artworks convey our individual as well as our collective experiences — they represent our struggles but also our hopes, dreams, and ambitions. Inevitably, this anthology of paintings and drawings will be judged by tougher standards than otherwise. Still, we hope each piece is assessed on its own merits, with neither prejudice nor favoritism. Look at each work of art and you will find the essence of the artist.
One could say that this exhibition functions as a portal, a door through which we eagerly traverse to belong, to break archaic traditions, stepping forward into a more equitable future. It also allows us to break the molds of society’s expectations — collectively, intellectually, and professionally. And once the exhibition concludes, the beautiful MEAM catalog published for this occasion will be the enduring testimony of that bright spotlight that shone on our work, gloriously displayed on the venerated walls of this beloved museum, leaving a silent mark on history…
Just like all participating artists, I feel privileged to have been invited to participate in this exhibition. The museum also invited me to write a bilingual foreword for the catalog, which is published here but has been embellished with additional text and a modest medley of drawings and paintings selected by the museum. The Women Painting ◦ All over the World catalog shows all participating artworks and is well worth acquiring — especially if you can’t travel to see the exhibition in person.
Buy yours HERE!
Women Painting ◦ All over the World will be held from March 8th until May 2nd, 2021 at the European Museum of Modern Art or MEAM, in Barcelona, Spain
The 80 participating artists come from 25 different countries. They include Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela.
All 80 Participating Artists