Ten Disruptive Women Artists of 2022
2022 was a very important year for the art world, where we perceived reversals and a break with the past, especially with the art market dominated by the white male.
We have selected our ten favourite female artists who highlighted global issues, and spoke about contemporaneity in the most direct and disruptive artistic manner.
As Jerry Saltz says: “Art remains a means to explore consciousness, worlds both seen and unseen. It is a tool, a medium, a matrix or a miracle that transforms old impressions into new thoughts; that lights up a thousand insignificant details and draws us in. Over recent years there has been a great upheaval in the art world. For the first time in history, more women and underrepresented artists are being exhibited. This is changing the way art is seen and the audience that observes it.”
Cecilia Alemani, the artistic director of the Biennale’s 2022 edition, included a high percentage of artists who do not identify themselves as male or female: of the 213 artists at the Biennale, only 21 – or just under ten per cent – are (or, in the case of the deceased, were) male. The fact that Alemani curated a major international exhibition, arguably the most important in the world, with a female majority is, despite its subtlety, a gesture of openly feminist curatorial activism, and a much-needed turnaround.
At My Art Guides we have compiled a list of our ten favourite female artists of 2022 and have decided to share it with our readers, in the hope that other curators will have the courage to follow Alemani‘s example and use platforms as important as the Global Biennials to continue to give a voice to those who have been historically silenced, which inevitably are women, non-white and queer artists.
Renowned for her provocative representations of intimate social situations, Sonia Boyce is considered one of the most important black artists on the contemporary scene and has pioneered the creation of a space in art history for black female subjectivity in the UK. On the occasion of this year’s Venice Art Biennale, Sonia created – for the British Pavilion – an immersive installation entitled “Feeling Her way”, winning the Golden Lion for Best National Participation.
In 2022 Palazzo Grassi, Pinault Foundation Venice dedicated the first major retrospective to South African artist Marlene Dumas in Italy. Dumas’ works can be divided into two major strands. For the first part of her career, the artist worked mainly with collages and texts, while in the second part she focused mainly on the technique of oil on canvas and ink on paper. The themes addressed by Dumas in her works are manifold and range from love to death, from suffering to ecstasy, from fear to violence, including social and political themes such as racism and gender differences. Dumas’ are contributions in which the intimate sphere merges with social themes, as well as works with a powerful erotic charge that aim to shock the individual viewer and the entire art world. Dumas considers painting and art to be a physical act and for her works she uses Polaroids taken by her, magazines, pornographic material, photos that have made history and even film stills as sources of inspiration. Her production is based on the awareness that the endless stream of images by which we are invested on a daily basis interferes with our perception of ourselves and how we read the world.
To inaugurate this 2022, the MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome presented the first Italian solo exhibition of Chinese artist Cao Fei, titled ‘Supernova’. One of the most innovative and visionary artists on the contemporary scene, with her artworks Cao Fei recounts the transformation of Chinese society and metropolises, the transition from millenary traditions to the technological present, the obsession for unconditional development and human alienation. An artist who has exhibited all over the world, from MoMA PS1 to the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Tate Modern in London and the 56th Venice Art Biennale, Cao Fei has confirmed that she is an artist to be followed.
As part of the 59th Art Exhibition, curated by Cecilia Alemani, the Venice Biennale awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to German artist Katharina Fritsch. Known for her large and very colourful sculptures, figurative, at the same time hyper-realistic and fantastic: copies of objects, animals and people rendered in the tiniest detail but transformed into perturbing apparitions.
Since the 1970s, Nan Goldin has been photographing people living outside ordinary gender constructs. Her most celebrated diary work is entitled “Ballad of Sexual Dependency” (1979-1986) and collects extremely intimate scenes of love, violence, sex and drugs, all taken from first-hand experiences. Presenting stark images of life on the margins of society, the photographer became addicted to the opioid Oxycontin following a wrist injury. This experience led her to the activism with which she reset the way art institutions seek patronage. This year, her story was presented on the big screen thanks to director Laura Poitras with “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”, a documentary awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Simone Leigh is nowadays one of the most important artists working in the United States and around the world, as well as the first black female artist to represent the United States at the International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. She received the Golden Lion as Best Artist for her monumental sculpture ‘Brick House’, which provides a powerful portrait of the black woman’s body as a place of plurality and diversity.
For the Biennale Arte 2022, Alexandra Pirici presented an ambitious new project that pays homage to and challenges the notion of the encyclopaedia: ‘Encyclopedia of Relations’. While encyclopaedias present the disciplines or elements of our world as distinct and separate entities, Pirici’s work focuses on the relationships between elements as a way of understanding deeper complexities. Through choreography and movement, the performance emphasises the interconnectedness of our world and presents knowledge in constant transformation and evolution. Her dances are true continuous performance actions that take into account histories and social structures. Alexandra likes to assemble groups of performers into formations that she describes as ‘live sculptures’ that act, that move, that even sing. Works that unfold over long periods of time, respecting an artistic practice that focuses on making a seemingly fixed subject matter fluid, no matter whether it focuses on public memory, history or art.
Paula Rego has long been one of the most established artists on the world art scene, but the entire room dedicated to her by Cecilia Alemani at the Biennale Arte 2022 “The Milk of Dream” has definitively established her among the great contemporary masters. Rego’s paintings often refer to her sometimes lonely childhood in Lisbon, her experiences as a young mother in London and Portugal’s turbulent modern history including the impact of the dictatorship of former Portuguese president António de Oliveira Salazar. Interwoven in her paintings are Portuguese mythology, scenes from popular storybooks and evocations of religious iconography; a reminder of the Catholic guilt and fear of the devil she felt as a child. Always a feminist and realist, her art is a bold exploration of moral challenges to humanity – political tyranny, gender discrimination, female genital mutilation and civilian deaths in war. One of his best known series of paintings is ‘Abortion Series’, created in 1998 after the negative outcome of the abortion referendum in Portugal. The series, made with pastels, portrays women, usually young, poor or from ethnic minorities, immediately after an abortion in a time and place when it was considered illegal.
Sculptor Victoria Ryan, born in 1956 in Plymouth, now a ghost town and the de jure capital of the island of Montserrat, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom located in the Leeward Island chain of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, has been announced as the winner of the Turner Prize 2022, one of the world’s most important visual art prizes. Her work explores themes of displacement and loss through organic sculptures, often characterised by soft, vegetal forms and made from organic and recycled materials. His sculptures take on organic forms but resist definitive interpretation, allowing multiple interpretations to emerge. Themes such as historical networks of intergenerational exchange and trade, along with cycles of death and rebirth, environmental collapse and collective trauma, run through his artistic practice.
Kiki Smith is a German-born American artist who occupies a leading role in the contemporary art scene. The protagonist of more than 150 monographic exhibitions worldwide, Kiki Smith has received several official awards and exhibited numerous times at the Whitney, Florence and Venice Biennales. Through her artistic work, Kiki Smith depicts everyday themes such as identity, sexual stereotypes, the relationship between the body and the world and between man and nature. The central focus of her artistic poetics is the representation of the body, particularly the female body. With her latest solo exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art, she occupies a unique space in contemporary American art of the 1980s-90s through her deconstructive expression of the body, thus continuing to be active in her very interesting artistic practice.