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5 Gallerists on What It Means to Support Women Artists Today

For decades, women gallerists have worked with women artists to create networks of support, friendship, and research that seek to challenge the male-dominated environment of the art world. Today, they continue to maintain the urgency of this project in a myriad of different ways.

The five women gallerists featured here are based in locations from London to Lagos, and this global span points to the often intersectional approach that women gallerists take to their programming. These gallerists advocate for the multiplicity of issues that women artists are tackling today, from body politics to environmentalism.

Wendy Olsoff and Penny Pilkington

When they established their gallery, P·P·O·W, in New York’s East Village in 1983, Wendy Olsoff and Penny Pilkington saw an art world that they felt rarely reflected the political realities and aftermath of women’s liberation, civil rights, and the anti-war movement in the U.S. “We wanted to show work that spoke to the moment, and it just so happens that we have a high percentage of women artists in our program,” said Olsoff.

The gallerists have “always had a passion for storytelling, figuration, and politics,” Olsoff explained. Artists such as Carolee Schneemann have become important pillars of the gallery’s program, but Olsoff is also keen to note the work of younger artists they represent today. “We don’t want a program of watered-down versions of early pioneering works—the work has to be committed to the current moment, and in this sense, we see a lot of intersectional and environmentalist works,” she noted. Astrid Terrazas and Mi Kafchin are two such artists who explore trans aesthetics, utopias, and the technological and environmental realities of the current moment, for instance.

Olsoff tells Artsy that while the relentless pace of the art market is difficult for artists, continuing to present a challenging body of politically engaged work is one strategy for furthering change. “It is important for us to emphasize the need to support the entirety of a program, and that collecting is not just about accumulating artworks,” Olsoff said. “If collectors support across programs, then this is what will make change.”