Fans of Feminism: Re-writing Histories of Second-wave Feminism in Contemporary Art

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To be a fan of something often indicates an over-attachment, an excessive engagement that goes beyond the intellectual. The idea of a ?fan of feminism? will, for some, conjure up negative associations: of obsession, of embarrassing desire, and of a loss of perspective. Why then try out this idea, of being a fan of feminism? Over the last decade feminism has gradually crept back into view in the work of a number of contemporary artists, particularly as a historical moment or mode of collective production, focused on second-wave feminist art and activism. The 1970s as a fertile feminist moment has been highlighted recently by the huge wave of debate generated by the exhibition WACK!, Art and the Feminist Revolution, that opened at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2007 and then toured the USA. Coinciding with the opening of the Elizabeth Sackler Feminist Art Center at the Brooklyn Museum, whose centrepiece is the permanent installation of Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, 1974?1979, the art press in both the USA and the UK covered page after page on the subject of feminism in contemporary art, and the relationship to a feminist history. Special issues and sections on feminism were produced in magazines from Frieze to Art in America, with articles ranging from influential writers such as Lucy Lippard and Carol Armstrong to the opinions of a younger generation of critics such as Polly Staple.1 If second-wave feminism was now fashionable, what was it that drew such interest? Books and exhibitions on feminist art during the 1990s had not generated such discussion and when projects such as Amelia Jones' Sexual Politics: Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, 1996, had been looked at, it was in the context of the problems and arguments that had been provoked, rather than an appraisal of feminist art history in a positive light.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-286
Number of pages22
JournalOxford Art Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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