Courtesy of the YCBA digital archives

A new exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art called Art in Focus: Women From the Center pulls female artists to the art world’s forefront. The show was curated entirely by student curators: Emma Gray ’21, Sunnie Liu ’21, Annie Roberts ’21, Christina Robertson ’22 and Olivia Thomas ’20.

The show, inspired by the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Yale College and the 150th anniversary of coeducation in Yale’s graduate schools, celebrates female artists in the YCBA’s collection. The exhibition will be installed at the center next week. However, since the center’s physical spaces are closed to the public, the exhibition is set to open virtually on Mar. 5 at 12:30 p.m.

“The exhibit is our attempt to rewrite women artists back into history, especially women artists of color, and to celebrate them,” Liu said.

The student curators were chosen from the center’s Student Guides program, an opportunity that allows a cohort of 25 students to partake in the center’s programming activities. These activities include leading tours, learning about curation and purchasing one new item for the collection each year.

Linda Friedlaender, head of education at the YCBA, said that “Art in Focus” — which allows students to curate an exhibition annually — is one such opportunity offered to student guides.

The exhibition’s title was dually inspired by the pieces’ place in the center’s collection and art critique Lucy Lippard’s collection of feminist essays titled “From the Center.”

The exhibit features four themes: “Women and Institutions,” “ Space and Place,” “Women as Muses” and “Beyond the Figure.” Each student guide focused on a different theme, while Roberts wrote the exhibition’s introduction and final wall text. 

Gray, one of the two head guides, noted that while making the selections, the group focused on the artists’ gender as well as their representation of the female experience. But Gray said the chosen works are significant in their own merit, beyond their portrayal of the feminine voice.

“We wanted to focus on female artists, but we didn’t want it to be just that,” Gray said. “We wanted to avoid people thinking that we were grouping works together just because they were of women or by women, as is often done by museums.” 

Liu was in charge of curating the exhibition’s “Beyond the Figure” component. This section honors female artists who have made contributions to the abstract art artistic movement — which is generally male dominated. Liu said this segment challenges the conventional focus on women and women’s bodies as subjects rather than creators in art.

Gray, who curated “Women as Muses,” said that the wall explores portrayals of women by female artists, which differs from conventional portrayals of women by male artists as passive figures.

“We get to shed light on works that don’t get to be talked about as much,” Roberts said. 

The YCBA is located at 1080 Chapel St.

Maia Decker | maia.decker@yale.edu