Kingdom of women at Uffizi Gallery
The new concept is intended to overcome gender inequality in art
10 February, 2017
As of early spring the museum Uffizi Gallery in Florence is changing its concept to show considerably more works by female artists. In this way, one of the world’s oldest museums is striving to rectify a historic imbalance in gender representation with a long-term initiative. The exhibition aims to revive the reputation of Sister Plautilla Nelli (1523-1587), a nun and the first female painter from Florence during the Renaissance. The exhibition at Uffizi is expected to open on 8 March and continue until 30 April, with the launch purposefully scheduled for the International Women’s Day. Two weeks later, the Pitti Palace, located on the opposite side of the Arno River, will display self-portraits by the late Austrian artist and feminist Maria Lassnig (24 March - 28 June 2017). The Plautilla Nelli event will be the first in a series of annual exhibitions dedicated to female artists, says Eike Schmidt, director of both Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace. “About a dozen of Nelli’s paintings from churches and museums across central Italy, some of which have only recently been attributed to her, will be put on display along with her works sourced from the Dominican Convent,” says Schmidt. “By organising regular exhibitions by female artists, that will also be included in permanent displays, the museum aims to overcome gender inequality,” says Schmidt, adding: “This is not just a special initiative to do for three or five years. I do not know if I am still going to be director, but I think we could easily go on for 20 years.”The initiative was prompted by a conversation he had in 2015 with US-based anonymous activists of the Guerilla Girls, a group that has been fighting to expose gender inequality in the art world for 30 years. “Established by the Medici family and officially opened by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1769, the Uffizi museum has the world’s largest collection of works by female artists active before the 19th century,” estimates Schmidt.A number of self-portraits by women once hung in the narrow Vasari Corridor, which connects the Uffizi to the Pitti via a passageway over the Arno River. That corridor was closed for maintenance in November. “Works by old masters such as Raphael and Rembrandt, as well as Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun and Marietta Robusti, daughter of Tintoretto, have been accessible only via private visits, or to less than 1% of the over 2 million people who visit Uffizi every year,” says Schmidt. “But after a rehang this autumn, female self-portraits could occupy more than an entire room of the main building,” he continues.
A work by Sister Plautilla Nelli.
Maria Lassnig. Self-portrait.