Celebrating Trailblazing Women in Art for International Women's Day

March 6, 2024

Our Head of Business Development, Julia Colavita, spotlights Contemporary women artists ahead of International Women’s Day.

1. Sonia Boyce

Sonia Boyce's groundbreaking artistic journey has consistently pushed boundaries for over four decades, solidifying her as a pivotal figure in the Black British art movement of the 1980s. Her visually mesmerising works extend from the intricate backdrops of multimedia installations to handcrafted wallpapers, evoking memories of Caribbean patterns and colours from her childhood. Boyce's distinctive approach to collaboration transforms the art-viewer into an active participant, fostering powerful dialogues about inclusivity and collective creativity. This shift in dynamics explores the intricate relationships of power and representation within artistic production. Her unwavering commitment to representation, collaboration, and social engagement remains a driving force, inspiring and shaping the trajectory of contemporary art.

2. Vivian Suter

Discovering Vivian Suter's immersive hanging canvas works through  Proyectos Ultravioleta years ago,  left an indelible mark on me. Conversations with gallerist Stefan Benchoam lead me to the documentary "Vivian's Garden," which deepened my appreciation not only for her paintings but her entire approach to art and life. Originally from Switzerland, Suter relocated to the highlands of Guatemala, where she now lives and works. What sets her work apart is its true immersion in the natural environment where external factors shape and influence her paintings. Three years ago, during the pandemic, I attended  her expansive installation, Bonzo’s Dream at the Brücke Museum in Berlin. Walking through a forest of over 40 of Suter's lush and gently swaying loose canvases was a profound experience  of  wonder and contemplation.

3. Katherine Bradford

Katherine Bradford holds a special place in my appreciation for painters. Her compositions, though seemingly minimal and stark, possess an enchanting quality. Whether depicting faceless figures in water or astral landscapes, her paintings draw me in with an allure that transcends their apparent simplicity. I find myself captivated for hours, discovering an infinite depth and magic within each piece. Bradford, truly a painter's painter, masterfully employs colour and light to create a spellbinding effect. In every painting, an otherworldly moonlight seems to radiate, adding an ethereal quality that contributes to the enduring fascination her work holds for me.

4. Sol Calero

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Sol Calero in Berlin and first experienced her vibrant and playful large-scale installation in Hamburger Banhof Berlin, 2017 when she won the Nationalgalerie prize. She draws inspiration from her Venezuelan roots, creating a visual tapestry  of hybrid spaces and integrating elements of Latin culture  which challenge traditional notions of identity and belonging. Her contributions to the art world have become particularly important, fostering dialogues on the richness of cultural exchange and the nuances of contemporary identity. I’m thrilled to see her work which was selected to be included in the upcoming 60th Venice Biennale ‘Foreigners  Everywhere’. 

5. Zanele Muholi

My introduction to Zanele Muholi's arresting photographs was in 2010 while serving as the Artsy liaison to Stevenson Gallery in South Africa. Muholi's photographic portraits, characterised by subjects gazing directly into the camera, left an indelible impression with their powerful aesthetic and profound emotional resonance. Each of Muholi's photographs captivates through an unapologetic dedication to visual storytelling and activism, specifically advocating for South Africa's black and LGBTQI+ community. Witnessing Muholi's visual activism unfold over the past decade  has been impactful, culminating in global recognition for her compelling and socially conscious art.

6. Ida Ekblad

Ida Ekblad is one of my most admired contemporary abstract painters, and I find myself regularly pouring over 500 pages of her captivating works within the published book "Melted Snow" which I have at home. There's an inherent rawness and immediacy in her work that taps into a primal, almost instinctual aesthetic. Whether employing bold brushstrokes and motifs,  or integrating unconventional materials, Ekblad breathes spontaneity and authenticity into her creations. A meaningful highlight, was her participation  in a charity sale which  I supported in organising in 2022 called “Solidarity Prints’; an  initiative supporting BiPoc art workers and their families affected by the war in Ukraine.

7. Chelsea Ryoko Wong

I first encountered the beautiful and vibrant works of Chelsea Ryoko Wong during my collaboration with the Jessica Silverman Gallery on Art Basel's charity initiative, Access, powered by Arcual in Miami Beach in 2023. When first viewing "Three Day Weekend," which depicts friends sharing a meal around a table, smiles illuminated by a window with a gorgeous blue sea view, I instantly found myself saying out loud, 'I want to be inside this painting with them!' Her entire body of work emanates optimism, cheer, and serves as a poignant reminder of the  simple joys in life that are meant to be shared with others.

8. Edith Dekyndt

I first encountered Edith Dekyndt's captivating artworks by chance during Art Brussels 2016 at the Wiels foundation's retrospective, "Indigenous Shadow." Exploring the breadth of her creations, it felt like stepping into the artist's microhabitat, where each artwork possessed a distinct life. Whether it was an unearthed bed sheet buried for eight months in her Berlin studio or pieces incorporating living yeast and crystalising minerals, Dekyndt's works transcend static art forms. They function as living organisms, foregrounding their own life processes and decay, continually evolving and responding to their environment and external factors.

9. Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu's large-scale visual tapestries, adorned with intricate mark-making, have consistently fascinated me over the years. These visual tapestries serve as a profound exploration of layered geopolitical histories, drawing inspiration from diverse sources such as ancient Babylonian artefacts to symbols of African liberation movements. Despite the abstract nature of her work, Mehretu skillfully imbues the imagery with a complex landscape of representational origins. Standing before one of her expansive works feels akin to a meditative experience, inviting reflection both on the individual and on society at large.

10. Emily Jacir

Emily Jacir skillfully bridges the personal and the political while making profound contributions to the representation of marginalised narratives, particularly those of displacement, occupation, and resistance of her native Palestine. Her unwavering commitment to historical exploration is evident in the meticulous archival research she dedicates to her work, incorporating historical documents, oral histories, and found materials to imbue her art with a remarkable depth and authenticity. This dedication has rightfully garnered international acclaim, exemplified by her receiving the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale in 2007. I look forward to seeing her work in the upcoming Collateral Event of the 60th Venice Biennale, presented by Artists and Allies of Hebron.

11. Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer is a true maverick of language who wields it to incite thought and social impact. Her public works employ innovative mediums such as LED installations, projections, and billboards, transcending the conventional boundaries of gallery spaces to engage directly with the public. I deeply admire her activism and unwavering commitment to using politically charged and thought-provoking works as a means to broaden minds and elevate awareness.

12. Zoe Strauss

I would be remiss to not include an artist from my hometown of Philadelphia. I first learned about Zoe Strauss from her exhibition Zoe Strauss: Ten Years,at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012, which later travelled to the ICP in New York. I vividly recall navigating the exhibition, traversing from one image to another capturing the streets, houses, and characters of disenfranchised communities in Philadelphia. Each scene felt strangely familiar, evoking both disorientation and a profound sense of depth. Strauss's raw and unfiltered images stand as a testament to her deep empathy for the subjects, portraying their struggles and triumphs with unvarnished honesty and dignified grace.  A self-taught artist and political activist, Strauss initiated her artistic journey by exhibiting under the interstate I-95 highway overpass in South Philadelphia — the very neighbourhood where my father and extended family grew up, and where I spent a significant part of my childhood.

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Pictured: Vivian Suter, Soft and Fluffy Is My Soul − My Tommy Juices Don’t Worry − Are Sweet like a Liquorice Roll, 2022 Vista de exhibición Kunstmuseum Basel, Foto: Julian Salinas