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Feminist Emergency: Women Artists in the Nordic Countries, 1960-Present

New research underscores how gender representation in the Danish and Nordic art worlds remains surprisingly imbalanced

Feminist Emergency considers the contribution and conditions of women artists and feminist art both in Denmark and the larger Nordic region over the last sixty years. A guiding question for the project is why, if there are more women artists working in the Nordic countries today than ever before, are they still so grossly underrepresented in the art world? The project’s research has demonstrated that, despite the liberal reputation of the Nordic countries, the feminist revolution did not remap the art world as commonly understood: Women remain significantly underrepresented in museum collections, exhibitions, and art historical studies, and feminism has tended to be taken for granted as an already completed historical moment. In fact, feminism remains an incomplete undertaking in Denmark and the other Nordic countries. Today feminist art, curation, and theory are at a crossroads that demands new approaches and visions. The project thus deploys feminism as a core methodology for challenging and infiltrating normative structures and forms of representation.

Housed at the Department of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen under the direction of Assistant Professor Kerry Greaves with Postdoc Birgitte Thorsen Vilslev, Feminist Emergency organised a major international conference at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 2021 and has produced several publications, including an expansive anthology on contemporary Nordic art and feminism. The other major contribution of the project is the survey and publishing of new data and statistics revealing the significant underrepresentation of women artists in Danish and Nordic art institutions. The purpose of the research is to disseminate the continued and current disproportion of the representation of men, women, and nonbinary artists as a starting point for a better understanding of the issues at stake for Danish and Nordic art institutions and for further research, as well as an empirical basis for stakeholders in the public debate.

Researchers in the project have found that the lack of representation in art institutions reflects a general inattention to the issue of feminism and gender inequality in art history and art criticism, both within and outside of the Nordic region. This is something that the project focuses on exploring and seeks to redress, as feminism is seen as being germane to contemporary Nordic art—and to its future.