Mind has no gender
Status: 1:26 p.m. | Reading time: 3 minutes
Surrealism was more than a vain men’s club from the twenties: an exhibition in Frankfurt shows the decisive role women played in the artistic movement. And how their visions spread.
DThe examination of the feminine plays hardly a central role in any other artistic movement as in Surrealism. But so far we thought it was led by men like Max Ernst or Salvador Dalí – with the exception perhaps of the artists Frida Kahlo and Meret Oppenheim, whose fur-trimmed cup became the incunabulum of this art movement.
So it was today: Soaked with the theories about Freud and Lacan and their psychoanalysis, André Breton, as the intellectual leader of the dreamy utopians in Paris in the twenties, described the “spirit” of no gender. His audience: many artists, very few artists. The debate about equal rights for women, the new woman of the twenties, but never took up the artists, their motifs tell of nannies, headless or hysterical muses.
But now, around a hundred years later, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt am Main is starting to falsify any reduction to female heteronomy and victimhood. The curator Ingrid Pfeiffer raises our eyes and shows Surrealism as a worldwide movement that was much more heterogeneous than we previously knew.
“Fantastic Women” shows an incredibly large number of works by 20th century surrealist women. For example, which reader knows the oppressive work “The Prisoners” by Bridget Tichenor? Or Kay Sage’s surreal, gray canyon “I have no shadow” from 1940?
We’re talking about 35 artists who are gathered in the show and in a great catalog. There are a total of around 260 works, for example the fantastic hybrid creatures by the Belgian Jane Graverol (1905 to 1984).
The motif of the Sphinx transformed her into an ambiguous being with Rose and called it: “School of vanity”. Jacqueline Lamba finally emerges from the shadow of her husband André Breton in Frankfurt. They are only known as one name among many from the legendary exhibition “Exposition surréaliste d’objets” at the Ratton Gallery in Paris in 1936.
Where does this historical ambition of the Frankfurt exhibition hall come from? The Schirn has long made a name for itself as an institution by highlighting forgotten artists. One of the most convincing exhibitions was surely “Sturmfrauen” in 2015/16 on the female avant-garde of the early twentieth century.
But the house is not alone: it is fashionable to dig up forgotten women. However, most museums in Germany pursue a slightly different strategy: they celebrate women in solo exhibitions in order to finally give them due attention, so they don’t want to run the risk of creating new women’s enclosures.
The danger of the thematic exhibition for women has also been recognized in Frankfurt and is problematized in the catalog. However, Ingrid Pfeiffer did not want to miss the chance to do extensive research. And the result proves her right.
Nobody is locked in or locked out here, but simply broadening horizons in favor of a more realistic picture of the past. So it has already been decided: “Fantastic women” will become a standard show on the subject that you have to see if you want to say in the future: I know surrealism.
Fantastic women. In the Kunsthalle Schirn in Frankfurt from February 13th to May 24th