Art Stroll Around London: Guerrilla Girls at the Whitechapel Gallery

Art Review: The Guerrilla Girls Exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery

I’ve been doing a lot of (irrelevant) writing lately and when asked to write a review of an art exhibition i was quite thrilled!

I know, it’s been a while since my last post – I would love to put the blame at my full-time job solely, but that would be unfair. Truth is i have been busy with a lot of shit lately – but enough of my personal drama.

Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe?

guerrilla-girls

Guerrilla Girls, Poster from 1989

I have recently found myself in London and I was truly excited that I had finally the chance to explore the contemporary art scene in the city. One of my favourite gallery visits was at the Guerrilla Girls exhibition at the Whitechapel gallery.

The exhibition, named Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe?, with a duration from October 2016 to March 2017, had as a main subject the exploration of diversity in European art organisations. Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists, who i have recently encountered at a lecture in Athens, use anonymity to show facts, humour and outrageous visuals, in order to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture. At their latest exhibition at the Whitechapel gallery, Guerrilla Girls went beyond gender and additionally questioned the position of race and sexuality within European art institutions.

The exhibition itself included a mini video presentation of their work (installed at the gallery hall) as well as a one-room display of posters with outtakes from their new research. It presented responses to questionnaires sent to 383 directors about their exhibitions programme and collections around Europe, concerning the space dedicated to female artists. The questions were formulated to critically look at the narratives that are produced by cultural institutions. Interstingly, only 101 institutions responded.

Guerrilla Girls at the Whitechapel

Standing in front the main diplay at the Guerrilla Girls exhibition.

Re-inventing the f-word

Upon my visit, I was welcomed with a banner installed on the front of the gallery, clearly stating the main focus of the exhibition. The exhibition was held on the first floor, with the main display works spreading around a single room. As I was familiar with the artists’ work, I expected more use of their bold graphics and visuals. Instead, this exhibition had a clear focus on the statistical data, displaying the completed questionnaires of the survey, which were pasted onto the gallery wall and filled with the handwriting of gallery directors.

Personally, I value this exhibition as a successful one. The results of the survey were very informative, interesting and honestly disturbing. However, they were still presented in a sometimes humorous way that actually welcomed self-criticism (based on the comments made by some of the museums’ and galleries’ directors).

Concerning the audience (and given the fact that the admission was free of charge), I believe this was not an exhibition only aimed at those familiar with the Guerrilla Girls’ work or contemporary art lovers, but those who are part of the cultural institutions sphere as well as all people conscious about the affairs of the art world and the ‘real’ diversity in it. Upon my visit, I stumbled upon people of all ages (mainly 20+). However, this programme was not aimed at a younger audience (up to 14 years old), as it was constructed as an informative visual representation rather that an educational workshop.

Furthermore, in regards to the digital promotion of the exhibition, there were plenty of articles on the press (The Guardian, Art News, Time out London, Artsy, etc), social media posts via the Guerrilla Girls and the Whitechapel Gallery and newsletters sent to spread the word. Additionally, there were posters about the exhibition around London as well as informational leaflets at the entrance of the gallery.

Overall,  as I make my first ‘diving’ attempts at feminist art, i quite enjoyed the exhibition. However, the lack of more visual evidence, the limited space where the exhibition was held and the poor reading light were the issues I would like to be improved, in order to enhance the audience experience.

*This article is an edit version of a task asked (more juicy details to come!)

Till the next time,

Sometimes you’ve got something on your mind
that you can’t tell anybody-
In many cases it’s better to keep silent.
We were not put here to enjoy easy nights & days.

C.B.

Rachel

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