Seattle Art Museum Rehangs Collection Sans Men for Presentation of Pompidou’s “Elles”

Last week the Seattle Art Museum opened its presentation of the Centre Pompidou‘s 2009 exhibition “elles@centrepompidou,” a survey of works by female artists from the permanent collection of France’s national modern art museum. But the West Coast institution has taken the concept a step further, reinstalling its own permanent collection of modern and contemporary art to feature only artworks by women.

As a companion piece to “Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris,” the SAM’s “Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists” features works by about 30 women artists — including pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Mitchell, Eva Hesse, Jenny Holzer, Ellen Gallagher, Ghada Amer, Yayoi Kusama, and more — at its downtown headquarters, the Olympic Sculpture Park, the SAM Gallery, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

“We wanted to insure we weren’t steering away from uncomfortable works of art because they were uncomfortable,” SAM associate curator Marisa Sanchez, who co-curated “Elles,” told AP. “It is OK that any art makes one uncomfortable because it allows for another conversation to open up about what is it about this work that is unsettling.”

In the process of organizing the rehanging of the SAM galleries, Sanchez noted that only about six percent of works in the museum’s permanent collection are by female artists, an abysmal figure, especially compared to the Pompidou’s still-paltry 18 percent.

— Benjamin Sutton