The Women’s Gallery at 375 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Victoria was an exhibition space dedicated to supporting women’s art practice. It was a not-for-profit gallery run entirely by women giving their time and expertise on a voluntary basis. It was based on the artist’s collectives popular at the time. Collectivism was formed from grassroots activism which believed that individual discrimination could be overcome by a collective struggle. When a feminist critique was applied to the art world clear systematic sexism was revealed.
The gallery was not, however, a women’s space supporting any particular ideology or arts practice. It was a gallery which sort and found a place within Melbourne’s vibrant art culture to represent women artists. It made no apologies, gave no critiques, wrote no thesis, instead it based its feminism on action and collective endeavour. It did its best to present significant work in a professional manner for eleven months of the year. Art selection, exhibition curation and hanging, invitations and openings were undertaken by the Management Committee and the exhibitions were supported by a roster of gallery sitters.
The gallery held 119 exhibitions, of two or three week duration with 66 of those significant solo exhibitions. Four of our group exhibitions featured work from various aboriginal communities. There were 18 performances, readings and concerts. There were over 400 artists and performers represented over its eight years of exhibitions.
exhibitions covered traditional oil on canvas, drawings, etchings, lino-cuts, sculpture, hand-made fabrics, collages, installations, silk scarves, and jewellery. Those established artists and traditional women’s art societies who wished to support a women’s only gallery made a conscious decision to exhibit there. So did young artists, first year and final year graduating students, Year 11 & 12 VCE art students, TAFE Graduating students, aboriginal women’s art from Central Australia, Ramingining and Bathurst Island, multicultural groups representing migrant groups, First Wave Festival, Feminist Book Fortnight, Fringe Festival and six International Women’s Day Group Exhibitions.
women having first solo exhibitions, mothers re-entering the art scene after child-raising, rural women seeking access to the city art scene, women restricted by medium, style or experience from the commercial gallery scene, self-organised groups of women supporting each other’s art practice, women wanting to learn and practice arts administration and curation, women looking to establish a reputation and visibility in the art community.
As the gallery progressed it was able to approach curators who were established in their field and generally recognised at both state and national level as well as local curators.
Jane Clark Curator NGV, Juliana Engberg Senior Curator Museum of Modern Art Heide,
Kirsty Gorter Women’s Art Register, Carolyn Ingvarson Women’s Art Register, Wendy Kelly Women’s Art Register,
Natalie King Assistant Curator Monash University,
Sandra Kirby Simon Kohane Manyuku,
Camille McDonald Women’s Art Register,
Gill Miles Project Officer Victorian Association of Youth in Communities,
Erica Mooney Director The Little Gallery Toorak, Merren Ricketson Director Artmoves,
Judith Ryan Curator NGV, Jane Scott Curator NGV, Helen Vivian Director Artmoves, Penny Webb Curator and Felicity Wright Manyuku
The list of guest speakers included prominent women and feminists of the time including the Premier of Victoria.
Louise Adler Arts editor The Age, Alf Bamblett Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Sister Veronica Brady Loreto Order broadcaster and academic, Janine Burke art historian,
Tricia Caswell Executive Director Australian Conservation Foundation, Kaz Cooke author cartoonist, Maryanne Coutts artist, Zelda D’Aprano feminist political activist,
Juliana Engberg Assistant Director Curator ACCA Monash University Gallery, Patricia Foster Guide to Bookshops of Victoria, Susan Hawthorne Editor Spinifex Publishing, Carolyn Hogg Victorian Minister for Education,
Sheila Jeffreys Lecturer Politics Department Melbourne University Women’s Studies, Gail Jennings First Wave Festival Co-ordinator, Joan Kirner Hon. Premier of Victoria, Renate Klein Spinifex Press, Marilyn Lake Professor of History LaTrobe University,
Judith Lucy Comedian, Ann Mars Lecturer Art History Monash University, Mirka Mora Artist, Daniel McOwan Director Hamilton Art Gallery, Juliette Peers, Senator Janet Powell,
Moira Rayner human rights lawyer, Jennifer Sabine Head Victorian College of the Arts Film School, Jocelyn Scutt activist and human rights lawyer, Dale Spender feminist scholar teacher writer,
Wendy Stavrianos Senior lecturer Monash University,
Peta Tait playwright lecturer drama University of NSW,
Palz Vaughan Director Spoleto Fringe Festival, and Jackie Yowell Publisher Silvergum Press.