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Women Power Protest, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – review

Honouring the centenary year of when women won the right to vote, the Women Power Protest uses both modern and contemporary art to celebrate womanhood and understand how far we’ve come and what’s left to be tackled in the campaign for gender equality.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Housed in the Gas Hall at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Women Power Protest has it all, from photography and sculpture to fabric painting and film, showcasing the strength of womankind.

Reminding us that the Representation of the People’s Act didn’t grant the vote to all women in 1918, the exhibition focussed on intersectional feminism.

Showcasing pieces from Susan Hiller, Lubaina Himid and Mary Kelly, the exhibition also includes the sometimes controversial work of artists such as Sam Taylor-Johnson, Sonia Boyce and Margaret Harrison – demonstrating the huge array of female talent.

Using artworks from the Arts Council Collection and Birmingham’s own collection the exhibition is a collaborative one with the Arts Council Collection National Partnership Programme and four major UK galleries working together to curate, host, and share a series of exciting and innovative new exhibitions with works drawn from the Arts Council Collection.

Incorporating the themes of activism, hope and dignity, the team consulted with local groups such as the Precious Trust and Birmingham’s LGBTQ group, discussing what it means to be a woman now, which was an effective method to help the curators to decide what they wanted to say with the exhibition.

There were areas that viewers could choose to avoid with the help of an exhibition map, such as the zone that powerfully documented rape culture, analysing how the male gaze in art encouraged the commodification of and vulnerability of women, as well as true stories of assaults that were never reported by witnesses, painted in a post apocalyptic and monstrous manner.

Most effective was how the exhibition dealt with the double standards that women continue to face. Our insidious nature means that we are unable to spot them all in our day-to-day lives, but having them on show in all their glory successfully captured the necessity of feminism today.

It is no longer about being denied jobs that you are more than capable of undertaking, gender equality now deals with a more subtle inequality that possesses the small actions of our daily lives in the 21st century, such as the gender pay gap or having no support as women when balancing work and home life.

All in all, every man and woman should visit this provocative and powerful exhibition.

Review by Eleanor Forrest

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