Modern Masters Women | The Media Response19 Aug 2020
The Media Response by Christina Jansen
The media response to Modern Masters Women has been phenomenal. The exhibition has received nationwide coverage including BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland. There have been numerous interviews, reviews, debate and controversy. The artists we represent are The Scottish Gallery, and we are delighted that their work has been the subject of so much attention and admiration. We pay tribute and thanks, particularly to the artists who made new work at very short notice. I would also like to thank all my colleagues, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help bring this exhibition, publication and events programme to life during challenging circumstances. We hope you have enjoyed Modern Masters Women, which was also conceived to be visited in person, virtually, and brought to life through our online events programme.
An Idea at Speed
We already knew before the announcement on the 1st April 2020, that the world’s largest cultural event had been cancelled due to Covid-19. I was becoming accustomed to things going rapidly pear shaped, particularly after having to close the gallery door for the first time in 178 years on the 23rd March. Like everyone else, the lockdown cut down many plans, across the board, in one fell swoop. We needed a major rethink and fast. I had a long chat with Tommy Zyw and Kirsty Sumerling, my fellow Directors to gauge the mood.
There were two options: give up and stay dark or go down the insanity route of putting on an alternative Festival exhibition, a decision which needed to be made in a moment of complete isolation and remote working. I preferred the insanity route! There had to be a different solution for The Gallery and I decided that no matter what, we were going to plan for a Festival and re-imagine it, particularly because The Scottish Gallery existed long before the Festival began, and in a way, we are Edinburgh. I felt that we had to do something positive for the city and for the artists we represent. So there it was in next year’s programme: Modern Masters Women; a smaller, complementary idea planned to go alongside a major solo exhibition but the perfect vehicle to be ambitious for now.
Modern Masters was conceived by The Gallery nearly ten years ago; designed to curate recent acquisitions which relate to our Gallery history. This has been a successful series of exhibitions which emphasises who we are and what we do and brings many artists, ripe for rediscovery, back to the fore whilst showcasing many of Scotland’s most loved artists. Modern Masters is gender neutral and a take on art history – Modern places the art within the 20th century, although we often combine contemporary artists into the series. Adding the word Woman made it clear that we were making the series exclusively gender specific. Alice Strang, the award-winning curator behind the National Galleries of Scotland 2015 exhibition ‘Modern Scottish Women’ had highlighted that The Scottish Gallery was amongst the few private galleries to champion, promote and sell women’s art. As a general rule, artists do not like or want to be in gender specific exhibitions - most artists want to be shown alongside their peers and for the art to be the focus of attention. Fair enough. Except the history of women artists is still an area of controversy. Modern Masters Women has been the perfect vehicle to celebrate our history and open the debate. By exhibiting women artists over the last one hundred and twenty-five years, The Gallery gave women’s art a commercial value alongside the opportunity to show their work alongside their peers, men and women. It’s a complex history of perseverance, failure and success in equal part and Modern Masters Women is a celebration of what has been achieved.
Our programme of events was conceived to allow for a greater understanding of the history of women artists past and present. It was also to show solidarity and collaboration during a global pandemic and in the spirit of the Festival. We invited curators, art historians, institutions and individuals to take part in a 10-minute online lecture or in conversation programme alongside meeting the artists online, who are after all, the central subject and loved universally.
explore the exhibition
You can explore Modern Masters Women in person in The Gallery by booking an appointment. You can also explore the exhibition online by taking our virtual tour, which you can discover below.
We produced a special publication to accompany the exhibition, which you can browse below and is available to purchase here.