This is exactly the sort of thing that causes small-minded reactionaries to claim that feminists are violating values the reactionaries claim we should have. (Via.) But setting aside those who are looking for an excuse to push male dominance while disingenuously pretending to be for equality, it's an interesting experiment.
Reporting from Paris -- Imagine a museum that boasts the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe. Now imagine that an intrepid female curator puts all the men's work in storage and fills the permanent collection galleries with a new version of 20th and early 21st century art history, the one that women created.
Would she emerge as a champion, finally proving that women artists are as good as -- or better than -- the guys? Or would she simply expose weaknesses of the museum's collection and the art itself?
"It's a risk," says Camille Morineau, who has organized “elles@centrepompidou,” opening Wednesday at the Pompidou Center. "Excluding men and showing only women is a revolutionary gesture of affirmative action. But the museum is avant-garde. It's part of the Centre Pompidou culture to do things differently. And we like a lot of drama. This is going to be dramatic in a big way."
I wish I'd known about this while I was there, or I would have made a special effort to go see the exhibit. Of course, the tedious objection, issued from men who never have a problem when women are minimally or never represented, is that it's somehow unfair. In the reality-based world, women are subject to stereotypes about how they're less intelligent and less creative, and even those who break through that stereotype to get recognition often get treated like the exception to the rule. Focusing on women like this can really break up stereotypes, and show how much talent really is there. In the same vein, I have, on occasion, created mix discs for friends where the rule was that every band had to have women playing a major role in how the music turns out (not just banging a tambourine or singing in the background). I've found that it can really mean a lot to people, and sometimes doing that exercise makes it easier to see female artists that you may have missed because you hadn't really thought before how much talent is really out there.
Let's hope a dramatic exhibit like this can make that sort of difference, but on a much larger scale.