Marie-Jo Bonnet

Artists and Women in Avant-Garde Movements Publication date : November 9, 2006

Even avant-garde movements in the arts are misogynistic, argues Marie-Jo Bonnet. While self-righteously claiming to be open and to foster ideals of freedom and progress, these movements conceal women’s contributions. Painting has remained a predominantly male occupation, even — or especially — after Marcel Duchamp, the founder of the avant-garde.
This is the thesis developed by Marie-Jo Bonnet. She shows that although women in France have traditionally been especially active in the arts, and contributed extensively to them, institutional opposition has relegated them to a subordinate role. Did all this change in the twentieth century when the place of women in society seemed to undergo a revolution? Certainly not, replies Bonnet. Because women continue to be regarded as sensitive, delicate creatures, they are doomed to be underrated, confined to the minor arts, or reduced to narcissistic exhibitions in the manner of Sophie Calle — a far cry from the powerful, male expression of genius.
The artist Annette Messager was chosen to represent France at the Venice Biennial. What can be said about the role of women in the arts today? Does anyone still allege that the reason why women artists receive less consideration than men is because their work is of lesser value?

This controversial work shows the extent to which sexist clichés and prejudices have persisted in the small, confined milieu of contemporary art.

Marie-Jo Bonnet, a writer and historian, is the author of Les Relations amoureuses entre les femmes (XVIe-XXe siècles), Qu’est-ce qu’une femme désire quand elle désire une femme? and Les Femmes dans l’art.