5 Gallerists on What It Means to Support Women Artists Today

Art Market

Lucy Howie

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.

Philomene Magers and Monika Sprüth

Sprüth Magers

Portrait of Philomene Magers and Monika Sprüth. © Robbie Lawrence. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers.

“We believe in the necessity of our artists being seen in public,” said Philomene Magers, the co-founder of Sprüth Magers, referring to the host of progressive and cutting-edge conceptual work that the gallery champions and strives to position within public and institutional collections. With large-scale spaces in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and New York, Sprüth Magers is renowned for its rigorous, curatorial, and research-based program where work by women artists has always found a home.

The beginnings of Sprüth Magers is rooted in the friendship between Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers, who merged their respective galleries in Germany in 1998. The gallery partners began their work in the early 1980s and ’90s, in the wake of the women’s liberation movement and at a time when the representation of women artists in a male-dominated art world was a particularly urgent task.

“Representing women artists is something that has come naturally to the gallery,” Magers said. Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, who engage with feminism from this earlier period, have been associated with the gallerists since the early 1980s. Today, alongside a more established roster, the gallery is committed to a diverse program of younger women artists including Nora Turato, Kara Walker, and Analia Saban, encompassing a broad spectrum of performance, video, photography, sculpture, painting, and installation.

Magers emphasizes the significance of this variety: “We believe that our artists are contributing to the importance of culture in society, and in rich and diverse ways represent the time we’re living in,” she explained.

Wendy Olsoff and Penny Pilkington


Portrait of Wendy Olsoff and Penny Pilkington by Matchull Summers, 2022. Courtesy of P.P.O.W, New York.

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 Terazzas 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.”

Portrait of Adenrele Sonariwo. Courtesy of Rele.

Upon returning to Nigeria 15 years ago after studying in the U.K., Adenrele Sonariwo noticed that there was little in the contemporary art world of her home country that reflected the experience of young people like herself. Rele was born out of pop-up temporary exhibitions showing the work of young artists whose studios Sonariwo would visit locally in Lagos. Much of the work that Sonariwo is drawn to is by women artists, whose stories she says resonate with her personally.

“I am so aware of the challenges that women face in the art world and that stereotypes of women in Africa are still present in contemporary art,” Sonariwo explained. Though the gallery has additional locations in Los Angeles and London, Sonariwo reiterates the importance of Rele’s home turf of Lagos. “I want to represent the diverse stories that can come out of this region,” she said. Rele’s current group exhibition in Lagos, “Beyond Veils,” for example, presents work from Progress Nyandoro, Sedireng Olehile Mothibatsela, Tizta Berhanu, and Diana Ejaita, a group of women artists from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, respectively.

“It’s about supporting not just one artist but an entire generation,” Sonariwo told Artsy when asked what it means to support women artists today. “Upcoming artists can see what is possible for them by viewing this work.”

She added: “Some of the artists I work with are activists, advocates, and feminists and so their work empowers upcoming artists to make change in their communities.”

Portrait of Océane Sailly, 2024. Courtesy of Hunna Art.

Océane Sailly is the founder of Hunna Art, a contemporary art gallery with branches in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; Paris; and Failaka, Kuwait. The gallery represents women artists based in the Gulf region who address the history of the Arabian peninsula. “I knew I really wanted to work with artists and art professionals from my generation and create a platform to redefine the transparency of the gallerist-artist relationship,” Sailly told Artsy. She noted that she hopes to create a safe and comfortable space for the artists she works with.

“I think museums and art institutions can sometimes be performative in terms of supporting women artists, and other marginalized practitioners,” Sailly explained. The presence of women artists in museum collections and the art world at large is still an urgent task that gallerists must confront, she says: “There have been some positive evolutions in recent years. The groundswell of change is still building, so it’s very important to reaffirm the conscious act of supporting women artists.”

Just as important to supporting women artists is the regional aspect of the gallery’s program, made up of artists who are all working from the Arabian peninsula. “When I started Hunna, most of these women artists were lacking spaces to showcase their work on a local and international level,” she said.

The diversity of the work at Hunna is made clear not in the least by artists such as Nour Elbasuni, who “proposes new perspectives on masculinity through her female gaze,” said Sailly, “while Alia Zaal, Alymamah Rashed, and Talin Hazbar use their surrounding landscapes to investigate the self and the ecological, historical, and social aspects of their surroundings.”

Millie Jason Foster

Gillian Jason Gallery

Portrait of Millie Jason Foster. Courtesy of Gillian Jason Gallery.

Gillian Jason Gallery is built on an intergenerational passion for supporting women artists, and is the first and only gallery in the U.K. to solely focus on women artists. Inspired by the legacy of Millie Jason Foster’s grandmother Gillian Jason, who founded the gallery in 1980, the gallery has had a physical space in Central London since 2021.

Gillian Jason Gallery’s program is broad in scope. “We’re presenting the best of art by women, whatever that art might be,” Foster said. “We’re not a gallery that solely presents feminist art.” Building out documentation and research is central to the gallery’s curatorial project; it creates full catalogues for every show and ensures every artwork on show is contextualized with thorough research.

Lucienne O’Mara, installation view of “Through the Grid” at Gillian Jason Gallery, 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Gillian Jason Gallery.

Foster tells Artsy that part of the gallery’s central ethos is to ensure career longevity, an issue many emerging women artists still face today. “This is not just about making money, it’s about supporting women,” Foster said.

The gallery also aims to reinvigorate the estates of underrecognized artists such as Berenice Sydney, an abstract artist and printmaker who passed away in 1983. “Despite her presence in significant collections, has she received the credit she deserves from the mainstream art world?” said Foster. “That’s what I’m looking to do.”

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