#5WomenArtists: From a #Hashtag to a Movement

Last month, NMWA’s #5WomenArtists social media campaign launched for a fourth year of raising awareness about women artists. Pushing beyond the campaign’s signature question—“Can you name five woman artists?”—the 2019 campaign also challenged cultural organizations and individuals to take action to help right the art world’s gender imbalance. NMWA’s call to action listed ideas to inspire pledges: organizations might survey the ratio of women artists in their collections, acquire a new work by a woman artist, or establish a scholarship for women artists.

#5WomenArtists posts from Instagram

#5WomenArtists posts from Instagram

Inspiring Numbers

Our call this year was answered by over 750 cultural institutions and 8,000 individuals—responses came from across the U.S. as well as 37 other countries on six continents. We welcomed new participating organizations from Armenia, Colombia, Honduras, Liberia, Morocco, New Zealand, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates, among others. The campaign garnered 5,500 Instagram posts, 17,000 tweets, and countless inspiring pledges:

  • The Detroit Institute of Arts pledged to seek more opportunities to collaborate with local women artists on enriching programs and events.
  • The Seattle Art Museum pledged to feature an installation by a woman artist in its Olympic Sculpture Park.
  • The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba) pledged to increase the representation of Latin American women in its collection until works by female artists account for at least 50% of acquisitions.
  • The National Portrait Gallery pledged to feature the stories of American women in its exhibitions, programs, and social media as part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Individual participants pledged to:

  • “Buy work from living female artists and continue to legitimize the female perspective in the art world.”
  • “Integrate women artists into my lessons and curriculum.”
  • “Expose my son to art created by women.”
  • “Create a space for young women in the arts to feel comfortable sharing their work.”
  • “Create more opportunities for women artists to show, sell, and talk about their work.”

Screenshots of various #5WomenArtists pledges and answers

The campaign also expanded the practice of social media “takeovers” this year. In addition to NMWA taking over Tate’s Instagram account on International Women’s Day to share selections from our collection, this year the @womeninthearts Instagram account was taken over by 22 other museums that highlighted #5WomenArtists from their collections or programs. Check out the @womeninthearts story highlights to watch!

Tate x NMWA Collaboration

Additionally, this year NMWA teamed up with Tate to expand the reach of #5WomenArtists. Tate has an ongoing commitment to increasing the representation of women across the arts sector and within its four galleries across the U.K. Tate’s own public pledge is a major one: to stage five major solo exhibitions featuring women artists in 2020 and 2021. The planned exhibitions will highlight artists Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Paula Rego, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Maria Bartuszová, and Haegue Yang.

Keep Connected

Explore #5WomenArtists highlights on our website and social media accounts (@womeninthearts). Continue to advocate on behalf of women artists and celebrate their accomplishments all year. Every month is Women’s History Month at the museum!

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.