Calling all women artists: the Brooklyn Museum wants to take your picture

Kim Schoenstadt takes her idea for a group portrait on the road from Los Angeles to New York


You just cannot contain the kind of energy generated by the enormously supportive gathering of 733 women artists in Los Angeles, who came together for a group portrait at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery this August. At least that was the thinking of Carmen Hermo, an assistant curator at the Brooklyn Museum, who gained the support of museum leadership, including the director Anne Pasternak, to realise a New York version of the event.

Now Be Here #2 will take place the morning of Sunday, 23 October, in the museum’s Beaux-Arts Court. It will serve as the kick-off event in the museum’s A Year of Yes celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, featuring “ten exhibitions and tons of programming”, Hermo says. These include Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals, opening that weekend, and subsequent show on gender transformation in ancient Egypt and “black radical women” from 1965-85, the curator adds.

The Los Angeles event, which drew many generations of artists, was organised by the conceptual artist Kim Schoenstadt. She was seeking, she said, a spirit of inclusiveness in response to “the way the art world can be all about making lists, who gets invited and who doesn’t, or who’s in the show and who’s not.” She issued the initial email invite to dozens of artists, asking them—“like an old-school chain letter”—to invite others.

This time Schoenstadt is serving as a facilitator. Taking her place as artist-organiser is the New York-based Shinique Smith.

“I know my town, my people, curators and galleries, but I just have a sliver of a view of New York,” Schoenstadt says. “So I thought it was important to have a local artist who is engaged with the community. And Shinqiue is a fantastic artist with a fantastic personality,” she added. “I knew this wouldn’t send her into a panic.”

Smith’s invite went out on Friday to an initial group of some 200 artists, who were encouraged to forward it along. Her email encourages prompt RSVPs, noting a space limit of 1,000 people. Smith writes: “This is an opportunity for us to capture a moment where we stand together as women and artists, united together in all of our diversity… Let’s show the world how we do things in New York!”

Schoenstadt says groups in Miami and other cities have expressed interest in holding a similar event. She had the idea of simply posting a list of instructions online and letting the project go out into the world, but decided to stay involved. She is now trying not to “exclude people and piss them off—it’s not in the spirit of the project”.


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