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Explore the World’s First Museum Solely Dedicated to Women in Art

Located in Washington DC, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the ultimate destination for championing women in art

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | October 25, 2023 | Art

Perched on a bustling corner in Washington DC, The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is the world’s first major museum solely dedicated to championing women artists. After a two year renovation if its building the corner-wedge is now home to over 6,000 artworks. Ironically, the building once housed The Masons, a largely an all-male fraternity.

NMWA exists to advocate for a better and wider representation of women artists, making it a vital centre for community engagement, and social change through gender imbalance in the presentation of art. With works from legends like Frida Kahlo to young contemporary artists, including South Africa’s own Zanele Muholi, NMWA gives light to some of the world’s most important artworks a practices.

“With the reopening of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, residents and visitors have one more fantastic reason to visit Downtown D.C.,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Art and artists, and the stories they tell, add so much to the vibrancy and color of D.C. Now, we are D.C. proud to, once again, have this incredible museum dedicated to uplifting and championing the stories of women,” says Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia.

Zanele Muholi, Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, 2007. Image: National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The Sky’s the Limit

NMWA’s inaugural major exhibition, The Sky’s the Limit, features contemporary sculptures and immersive installations by 13 international and U.S.-based artists. A rare survey of large-scale work by women from the last two decades, the exhibition showcases 33 sculptures dating from 2003 to 2023, including like artists Rina Banerjee (b. 1963), Sonya Clark (b. 1967), Petah Coyne (b. 1953), Johanna Unzueta and Yuriko Yamaguchi (b. 1948).

Close up of Joana Vasconcelos, Rubra, 2016. Image: National Museum of Women in the Arts

Works dangle from the ceiling, cascade down walls and extend far beyond their footprints on the gallery floor. Monumental scale and a bold approach to materiality are combined with handwork, repetition and unconventional materials to achieve maximum impact. On view through February 25, 2024, the exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. Image: The National Museum of Women in the Arts

To complement the grand scope of The Sky’s the Limit, NMWA presents two focus exhibitions. Hung Liu: Making History highlights nine works by the renowned Chinese-born American artist (1948–2021), who transformed her canvases and prints into evocative memorial sites for women and children. Impressive: Antoinette Bouzonnet-Stella focuses on the 17th-century French artist’s series of 25 prints from 1675, The Entrance of the Emperor Sigismond into Mantua, installed in a unique wrap-around presentation. Both exhibitions are on view through October 20, 2024.