5 Women Artists You Should Know
Happy International Women's Day! Can you name five women artists?
For the past few years, M+ has been proud to participate in #5WomenArtists, a global social media campaign organised by the National Museum of Women in the Arts to address gender inequality in the arts. Throughout March, we highlight five works in the M+ Collections by women artists, designers, architects, or filmmakers on the @mplusmuseum Instagram account.
For International Women’s Day this year, we looked back through the artists and practitioners we’ve previously highlighted during #5WomenArtists and picked five that we think you should know about:
1. Amy Cheung (Hong Kong)
Down the Rabbit Hole, 'TAXI!' says Alice by Hong Kong artist Amy Cheung references Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, of 1865, in which the novel’s protagonist, Alice, follows a talking white rabbit down a hole into a wonderland of absurd fantasy.
Cheung’s lopsided and skewed perspective on Hong Kong’s iconic red taxi equates Alice’s surreal journey with uncertainties about Hong Kong’s post-handover future. Placed in public locations in Hong Kong and Guangzhou such as a taxi queues, parking lots, and the waterfront, Cheung’s sculpture playfully challenged public perceptions of what is real. A prominent aspect of Cheung’s work includes artistic interventions where the public least expect it.
2. Tanabe Reiko (b. 1934, Japan)
Tanabe Reiko, née Murai, is a furniture and interior designer, and a rare example of a woman who rose to prominence in her field in postwar Japan. In 1961, at the age of 27, she designed the ‘Murai’ stool, a selected entry in the first ever design competition held by plywood furniture manufacturer Tendo Mokko.
Minimalist yet multifunctional, the stool was the only product from the competition later put into production, reflecting Tanabe’s ability to harness Tendo’s strength in fusing craft and technology with her pragmatic design approach. More than half a century later, the stool is still in production and remains one of the company's most popular products.
3. Patty Chang (b. 1972, U.S.)
Patty Chang’s groundbreaking performances have become iconic in the genre of performance art while delivering strong statements on the complexities of Asian female identity.
Fountain from 1999 is an early performance by the artist that was documented by video, existing as a video artwork. It comes from Chang’s interest in psychoanalytic themes and issues of body and the gaze, particularly as they relate to her identity as an Asian woman. In the performance, she drank water from a mirror. The act brought to mind Narcissus, the Greek god who fell in love with his own reflection while believing it was someone else; a splitting of the interior and exterior self. Chang refers to the image as an attempt ‘to become whole again by drinking in the image of itself’.
4. Zaha Hadid (1950–2016, b. Iraq)
In 1983, a then-relatively unknown Zaha Hadid won the competition to design a leisure club atop Hong Kong’s Peak. One of her competition proposal images is pictured above. The competition brief called for ‘an extremely luxurious residential club’ that would provide dramatic views from its site on the Peak.
Hadid’s proposed scheme was roughly divided into four stacked and sharply angular layers, with a void in the middle housing club facilities. The result provided a formal and architectural vocabulary that was jarring for its time, beating out 500 other entries and earning praise from the jury. While the scheme remained unbuilt, it helped cement the Iraqi-born, London-based architect’s reputation at the forefront of her discipline. Hadid continued to defy the limits of possibility in her work, through unabashed formal experimentation, to propose an entirely new language for architecture.
5. Irene Chou (1950–2016, b. China)
Irene Chou moved to Hong Kong in 1949 after a progressive upbringing in Shanghai. Her mother, Jin Qichao, was a calligrapher and an early advocate for women’s rights. Chou studied with Hong Kong-based master ink painters and rose to prominence in the 1970s. With the death of her painting mentor Lui Shou-kwan in 1975 and then her husband in 1978, she turned to painting as a source of therapeutic comfort and an outlet for her inner world.
In the 1980s, Chou's paintings re-emerged from their emotional darkness and revealed a new sense of hope and strength. These came to define her artistic style and language. Her masterly lines and dots create a sense of movement and musicality, as well as cosmic force—often with circular, swirling motion, visible here in the centre of Movement II.
Find more women artists in the M+ Collections this women’s month by joining the Art+Feminism: Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Women in Art in Asia on 9 March, and by following this year’s #5WomenArtists campaign on the @mplusmuseum Instagram account.
Image at top of post: From left to right: details from Amy Cheung, Down the Rabbit Hole, 'TAXI!' says Alice;Tanabe Reiko, Murai Stool; Patty Chang, Fountain; Zaha Hadid, Peak Block—Twenty Apartments and Void (Competition for the Peak, Hong Kong); Irene Chou, Movement II.