Know My Name, 2020/21

Rosemary Laing, flight research #6, 1999–2000, Type-C photograph, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased 2001, © Rosemary Laing. Courtesy the artist and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra is taking action to recognise the contributions of female identifying artists from different cultures, places and times, celebrating the insight and understanding their artistic practice affords us.

With a series of exhibitions paralleled by a program of events, commissions, collaborations, publications and partnerships the NGA’s new initiative Know My Name aims to increase visibility and works towards a more equal representation of women artists at NGA through inclusive programming, collection development and organisational structures. The representation of women artists in the NGA’s Australian art collection currently stands at only 25%.

Until 12 April, billboards and digital screens across urban and regional locations around the country will feature 76 works of art by 45 Australian women artists from the national collection with an estimated reach of approximately 12 million Australians. Reflecting on this artist Sally Smart says, “Recognising and celebrating the work of women artists is the first step in addressing gender equity and we hope that as many people as possible see their art, hear their stories and know their names.”

Launching on 31 May, the major Know My Name exhibition ‘Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now’ will present a voluminous display of over 150 artworks by artists past and present, which have been drawn together from the NGA’s Collection and other Australian art collections to bring forth an inspiring showcase of works, which both on their own and collectively exemplify the spirit, actions, strengths and successes of women artists.

Destiny Deacon (Ku Ku/Erub/Mer peoples), Eva Johnson, writer 1994, colour photograph, 72.8 x 58.6cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased 1995, © Destiny Deacon/Copyright Agency. Courtesy the artist and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Exhibition highlights include a floor-to-ceiling arrangement of artists’ portraits, a complete edition of Tracey Moffatt’s first major series of photographs titled Something more (1989), alongside work from pioneering performance artists Bonita Ely and Jill Orr, and artist Gemma Smith who has been commissioned to paint the walls of the NGA’s galleries.

Jean Baptiste Apuatimi (Tiwi people), Jirtaka [Sawfish], 2004, natural pigments on canvas, 90 x 90cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased 2005, © Jean Baptiste Apuatimi. Courtesy the artist and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Other exhibiting artists in the show include Rosemary Laing whose work is photo-based, painter and printmaker Margaret Preston (1875-1963), prolific Aboriginal painters Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996) and Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (1924-2015),  portrait painter Yvette Coppersmith, landscape and portrait painter Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884-1961), photographer Destiny Deacon, senior Tiwi Island artist Jean Baptiste Apuatimi and multi-disciplinary artist Julie Rrap, to mention only a few.

“By bringing together artists from different times, places and cultures, this exhibition proposes another history, upending the assumption that modern and contemporary Australian art is a male-dominated narrative,” notes the gallery.

Upcoming Know My Name projects
The Body Electric is a group show of photography and video works by artists including Polly Borland, Pat Brassington, Cindy Sherman, Petrina Hicks and others exploring themes of sex, pleasure and desire, from 28 March to 20 September.
Skywhales: Every heart sings sees Patricia Piccinini’s hot-air balloon sculptures Skywhale (2013) and Skywhalepappa (2020) float together over Canberra, launching in May.
Tjanpi Desert Weavers is a newly created large-scale commission by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers that tells the ancestral story of the Seven Sisters Dreaming, from 2 May to 4 October.
Angelica Mesiti: ASSEMBLY presents a three-channel video installation exploring how communities are formed through shared movement and communications, from 11 November.

Know My Name is part of a global movement campaigning for gender equity within the arts and across cultures and is supported by the ongoing work of Countess, Shiela Foundation and the #5WomenArtists campaign by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

You too can be part of the cause by visiting the NGA, seeing the works, hearing the stories and knowing the names. And you can wear your support with a Know Your Name T-Shirt available from the NGA shop and online.

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