Visual arts

This digital archive takes art dealers back to modern art history

A popular hashtag every March during Women’s History Month challenges people to name #5womenartists. But can you name five art dealers? A new project aims to prove that there are plenty of choices, they just haven’t been pulled from the margins of art history with the same vigor devoted to artists.

There is a general lack of knowledge about women art dealers, say Véronique Chagnon-Burke and Caterina Toschi, co-founders of Women Art Dealers Digital Archives (WADDA), which focuses on the global market for women’s art from the end of the 19th century. “We want to challenge the accepted narrative that there were only a few heroic characters,” says Chagnon-Burke, an independent researcher based in New York, referring to iconic male dealers or women like Betty Parsons. “We wanted to bring these women back [dealers] in the history of modern art.

The project began in 2017, when Chagnon-Burke and Toschi hosted a female art dealers symposium at Christie’s Education in New York and were inundated with proposals. They held a similar conference the following year, then decided to publish an anthology of all the papers (due to be published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts in late 2023, and tentatively titled Art dealers: creating markets for modern art, 1940-1990).

As the two realized they had found an under-explored area of ​​scholarship that sparked interest, WADDA’s reach broadened. They decided to develop an open-access online platform to aggregate existing research, publish oral histories, share resources, and serve as a meeting place for scholars. They have applied for funding from the European Council of Culture and hope to develop the website soon.

“The innovative argument explored and supported by WADDA is that the professional alienation that women have historically faced has galvanized their interest in niche markets – in turn marginal but more experimental – which today represent key sectors investment in the art market,” says Toschi, an art specialist. professor of history at the University for Foreigners of Siena who has done research on the gallery owner Beatrice Monti della Corte. Monti founded the Milanese Galleria dell’Ariete in 1955 and held regular exhibitions featuring American artists such as Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg in Italy until the mid-1980s.

As WADDA waits for funding, it expands its visibility in academic circles. He will chair sessions at two conferences this spring – the College Art Association and the Association for the History of Art. Participating newspapers have wide geographic coverage, with topics that include post-war merchants in Italy who supported avant-garde media and gallerists in São Paulo since the 1960s. gaps, we know very little about female art dealers outside of France, Germany and the United States,” says Chagnon-Burke, noting a marked effort to expand beyond that geography.

“Art history still tends to focus only on artists and their work and less on how artists achieved recognition,” says Chagnon-Burke. “Bringing more visibility to women art dealers is also a powerful way to contribute to the story of women as entrepreneurs, women as business leaders.”