Exhibition Guide: Museums Showing 9th Street Women… & Beyond

On May 21, 1951, in New York, the doors opening to what would be a defining moment in American art—The Ninth Street Show. Curated by future famed gallerist Leo Castelli, contemporary artists who had been challenging the aesthetic status quo were exhibited side-by-day for the first time. Of the 72 artists chosen by a jury for the exhibition, only 11 were women. Among these were artists who would become recognized internationally for their work, including Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner.

These women who are today remembered as pioneers and significant proponents of midcentury Abstract Expressionism (the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence) faced personal and professional challenged unique from their male counterparts. In their commitment to their work, their steadfastness to their artistic careers and their incontrovertible adherence to their individual creativity, they upended the art world, radiating from the United States and soon thereafter internationally, and in doing so established a standard fort artists, more focused on the work itself than gender.

Lee Krasner, Free Space, color screenprint, abstract waves of blue and black, 1975.
Lee Krasner, Free Space, color screenprint, 1975.
Estimate $2,000 to $3,000.

Featured below is your exhibition guide to shows featuring the women of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

What is Feminist Art?

At The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Exhibition open: November 26, 2019 — November 2020

“Organized by Curator of Manuscripts Mary Savig, the exhibition revisits a 1977 exhibition at Los Angeles’ Woman’s Building, a feminist art school, gallery, and community space founded by Judy Chicago, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, and Arlene Raven in 1971. The Archives, which holds the Woman’s Building papers in its collections, will reconsider this exhibition by showing responses from the 1977 show alongside new submissions by both original participating artists as well as a new generation of diverse artists. Approximately 75 works will be on view.

Part of the Smithsonian’s larger American Women’s History Initiative, the exhibition at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery will help tell the story of the feminist art movement through firsthand accounts. Building on the responses of women artists in the 1970s, which challenged the very definition of art in the patriarchal and discriminatory art world, new submissions highlight the ongoing effort to define feminism and equality.”

Heroines of Abstract Expressionism

At Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY

Exhibition open: September 19 — December 31, 2019

“The Abstract Expressionist movement is best known by its male superstars, but women were also pioneers of the genre. This exhibition, drawn from the Richard P. Friedman and Cindy Lou Wakefield Collection, showcases the work of artists such as Lee Krasner, Elaine DeKooning, Perle Fine, Joan Mitchell, and 15 others—women whose artwork is finding long overdue acclaim and new appreciation with a contemporary audience.

Organized by the Fenimore, this major exhibition features over 30 objects that are both visually mesmerizing and technically complex. It offers the widest breadth of any private assemblage of this genre, featuring the works of 19 women artists–possibly the most extensive museum survey to date on this topic. The artwork on display clearly demonstrates the various ways these artists were pushing themselves in new directions, as leaders and full participants, in the Abstract Expressionism movement.”

Sparkling Amazons: Abstract Expressionist Women of the 9th St. Show

At Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY

Exhibition open: October 6, 2019 — January 26, 2020

Sparkling Amazons presents the often-overlooked contribution by women artists to the Abstract Expressionist movement and the significant role they played as bold innovators within the New York School during the 1940s and 50s. Through the presentation of some 30 works of art alongside documentary photography, the exhibition captures an important moment in the history of Abstract Expressionism.”

Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera

At Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Exhibition ongoing

Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera begins in the 1940s and extends into the twenty-first century to explore large-scale abstract painting, sculpture, and assemblage through more than fifty works from The Met collection, a selection of loans, and promised gifts and new acquisitions. The installation is anchored by iconic works from The Met collection, including Jackson Pollock’s classic “drip” painting Autumn Rhythm (1950), Louise Nevelson’s monumental Mrs. N’s Palace (1964–77), and Joan Mitchell’s panoramic La Vie en Rose (1979). This ongoing and changing display is punctuated with special loans of major works by Helen Frankenthaler, Kazuo Shiraga, Joan Snyder, and Cy Twombly.”

Contemporary Art at Swann

Our Thursday, November 21 sale of Contemporary Art features a specially curated offering of works by women of the New York Abstract Expressionist school. Highlights include a run of prints by Helen Frankenthaler, notably an hors commerce impression of a 1989 color Mixografia on handmade paper Guadalupe and a 1987 color screenprint Mary, Mary, based on the painting of the same name. Joan Mitchell is present with Sides of a River II, color lithograph, 1981, and Louise Nevelson is represented by Throne, a 1979 painted wood and paper collage relief sculpture. Works by Rosemarie Beck, Lee Bontecou and Lee Krasner round out the exceptional selection.

Exhibition Hours

Saturday, November 16 — 12 pm to 5 pm

Monday, November 18 — 10 am to 6 pm

Tuesday, November 19 — 10 am to 6 pm

Wednesday, November 20 — 10 am to 6 pm

Thursday, November 21 — 10 am to 12 pm

Joan Mitchell, Sides of a River II, color lithograph of an abstract work in yellow, black, purple and green, 1981.
Joan Mitchell, Sides of a River II, color lithograph, 1981. Estimate $12,000 to $18,000.

Further Listening…

Recording Artists: A Podcast from The Getty

Season 1: Radical Women

“What was it like to be a woman making art during the feminist and civil rights movements? In this season of Recording Artists, host Helen Molesworth delves into the lives and careers of six women artists spanning several generations. Hear them describe, in their own words, their work, relationships, and feelings about the ongoing march of feminism. Contemporary artists and art historians join the conversation, offering their own perspectives on the recordings and exploring what it meant—and still means—to be a woman and an artist. This podcast is based on interviews from the 1960s and ’70s by Cindy Nemser and Barbara Rose, drawn from the archives of the Getty Research Institute.”

For more information on Ninth Street Women and Abstract Expressionist works at Swann, contact a specialist in our Contemporary Art department.