Where should the exhibition go?
As this exhibition is based on a selection of portraits from artists from different periods reflecting four main strands, the National Portrait Gallery seems to be the most appropriate space. I also thought about places that represent feminist ideology (e.g. the Department of Women’s Studies – such a ridiculous title – in a university), but that would restrict the audience to those who already, most likely, understand the issue of representation of women in the Western canon (albeit, the link with age might not be that widely discussed even now, perhaps it is self evident?). I would have liked, however, this exhibition to be seen by more people, especially by those who are not necessarily aware of the issue. The state of feminism today is rather precarious – over-sexualisation of the young via mass media, insistence of the same mass media that women always look young and “glossy” seem to me like the first steps in the direction opposite to gender equality. If the value of one half of the populace – independently of gender – is directly linked to how they look in the first place and not at all to their intellect, knowledge, experience, then that society cannot be called equal or democratic. And any society where there is no equality is not a happy society – viva la communism!
When thinking about the whiteness/blankness of modern exhibition spaces – e.g. Tate Modern, Ikon, Saatchi, etc. – I immediately feel that this type of space is somehow wrong for this collection: although the purist white seemingly allows the viewer to appreciate a piece of work without “interference” of extraneous elements (other colours and patterns, for example), it can be too brutal, too masculine – dare I use this gender generalization. What I envisage is a richer interior – warm colours or warm light (much like during the exhibition of portraits by Constable) rather than stark and uncompromising glare – and a display of images grouped under themes (Peasants and Curios; Monsters, Witches and Sinners; Mothers; Elderly Queens; Women as Human Beings). I would also like the portraits to be hung in a linear fashion along a corridor (e.g. room 22, first floor of the National Portrait Gallery) or in five consecutive rooms (e.g. 24, 26, 28, 29, 30 and 31, 1st floor, NPG, all connected) to show the development and change (of the views and attitudes) implied in the exhibition. On deliberation, the second variant seems to be the best choice: going through the doorways would symbolise the different aspects of the exhibition.
I did think about taking “homely” to the extreme: taking the exhibition home… however, I did not think there is enough wall spaceJ. Another idea was to build a Woman’s House, but the problems would be the same as with the idea of putting the exhibition up in a Women’s Studies’ Department – insufficiently wide audience would bring itself to visit somewhere so narrowly described as would defy the purpose of such an exhibition in challenging the stereotypes.