The Best Exhibitions To See To Mark International Women's Day

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 69 months ago

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The Best Exhibitions To See To Mark International Women's Day

To mark International Women's Day (IWD) we've rounded up the best exhibitions to see on the themes of IWD, feminism and exhibitions by kickass female artists. Down with the patriarchy.

Suffragette activism

Surveillance photographs of suffragettes who were to be imprisoned in Holloway. Image courtesy of the National Archives.

What better way to mark 100 years since (some) women were given the right to vote than an immersive experience of the life of a Suffragette activist. Lillian Ball from Tooting was arrested for smashing a window in 1912, and you can relive her journey via police records, leaflets and join actors on what's it like to live as a suffragette — including learning some jujitsu.

Suffragette City Immersive experience at London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus. 8-25 March, £18.50. (Tuesday - Sunday)

Bats & salamanders

Image courtesy Sadie Coles and the artist.

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, the artist formerly known as Spartacus Chetwynd, is back with a collection of paintings with creatures protruding from the walls — including a giant bat, spotted salamanders and a lengthy caterpillar. Add in a creepy hand operated jack in the box and we have the artist back at her eccentric best.

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd: Ze & Per at Sadie Coles, 62 Kingly Street. Until 7 April, free. (Tuesday - Saturday)

Cross Dressing

A remarkably open collection of photographs showing those who defy gender convention — the exhibition includes highly private photographs taken in their own living rooms and groups who would meet to cross-dress. There's a section on feminism where both those who promoted and opposed feminism depicted women dressed in what was deemed traditional men's clothing, to show how empowering/ridiculous it was respectively.

Under Cover: A Secret history of cross-dressing at The Photographers' Gallery. Until 3 June, £4 (free before 12pm). (Tuesday-Sunday)

Female gaze

Copyright Tara Moore and Getty Images.

Contemporary photography showing 70 women shot by female photographers. This selection shows how women see other women, whether it be in a glamorous model shoot or a out at the grocery store doing some shopping.

The Female Gaze at Getty Images Gallery, 46 Eastcastle Street. Until 14 March, free. (Monday-Saturday)

Pumpkin patch

Copyright the artist.

Yayoi Kusama has gained fame for her infinity rooms that use mirrors so they look like they go on forever (though the queues to see one is similarly eternal). The other thing she's known for are her polka dot pumpkin sculptures. This Mayfair gallery brings together her smaller pumpkin paintings, works that have never been displayed together in the UK before.

Yayoi Kusama: Small Pumpkin Paintings at Omer Tiroche, 21 Conduit st. Until 1 June (Monday - Friday)

Racism & ice

Image courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Artist Lorna Simpson looks at issues of race, equality and imprisonment with giant ice cubes, dark and mysterious water scenes and the surreal figure sat atop a giant snowball. It's politicised work that's also easy to engage with and marvel at.

Lorna Simpson: Unanswerable at Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row. Until 28 April, free. (Tuesday - Saturday)

Kill male artists

These aren't Warhols.

When all the top selling artists seem to be men, why not copy them. That's what Sturtevant did and her versions of works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns are all in one room with the repeating motif of the word 'kill' behind them. Her challenging works are scattered across this cavernous gallery as fake fingers are chopped and dipped in red paint in a sexually charged video below floating silver balloons. It's a diverse assault on the senses.

Sturtevant: vice versa at Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, 37 Dover Street. Until 31 March, free. (Tuesday - Saturday)

Women on women

Image courtesy Richard Saltoun.

Richard Saltoun is a gallery that's been showing female activist artists for years, so it's only fitting that the new Mayfair gallery opens with a show with thirteen renowned women artists. There are confrontational works here including one by Francesca Woodman where a female body is pinched with clothes pegs, a symbol of female domesticity. The head not being visible only adds to this view of how the female form is often objectified. This is a powerful and important show.

Women look at women at Richard Saltoun, 41 Dover Street. Until 31 March, free. (Tuesday - Saturday)

Row for your lives

Image courtesy the artist.

Sondra Perry takes on racism and technology in a sweeping stunning exhibition at Serpentine Sackler gallery. Turner's image of a slave ship has the bodies thrown overboard removed and the water animated so we become the bodies as we're surrounded by waves on screens that circle the entire gallery.

We also get to row for our own lives by jumping on a highly resistant rowing machine and watch a video about how technology has carried some racist views from society with it, as avatars of persons of colour are often cliched. One of the strongest shows we've seen since the Serpentine Sackler opened.

Sondra Perry: Typhoon coming on at Serpentine Sackler gallery. 6 March - 20 May, free.

Women only

Where better to host an exhibition of women artists than in a health and lifestyle club only for women? Four artists explore the female form and femininity through curvaceous vases, paintings, sewn textiles and drawings. All displayed in a stunning gallery space.

Ladies' Paradise at Grace Belgravia, 11C W Halkin Street. Until 8 April, free. (Every day)

Feminist architecture

Image courtesy Delfina Foundation and Art Jameel.

What was the influence of female planners and architects on the design of Baghdad in Iraq? Artist Ala Younis digs through the archives to unearth these feminine influences and present them through drawings and some impressive 3D architectural models.

Ala Younis: Plan for feminist Greater Baghdad at Delfina Foundation, 29/31 Catherine Place. Until 24 March, free. (Monday - Saturday)

Rape's aftermath

Copyright Elisa Iannocone.

How do you cope as a survivor of rape? Survivor and artist Elisa Iannocone has produced a multimedia art installation to open a dialogue on this delicate and important issue. Through the stories of 25 survivors this exhibition is about breaking taboos and tackling difficult issues through an exhibition.

The Spiral of Containment: Rape's Aftermath at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf. 8-11 March, free. (Every day)

Torture abstracted

Image courtesy Newport Street Gallery.

Rachel Howard takes one element of the horrific torture of Iraqi detainee Ali Shallal al-Qaisi at Abu Ghraib prison — the plinth the victim was standing on — and creates a whole series of paintings taking different approaches to it. Each painting takes the idea of the plinth he stood on and abstracts it to take apart its power as a route to trying to understand how such sickening acts can occur.

Rachel Howard: Repetition is Truth - Via Dolorosa at Newport street Gallery. Until 28 May, free. (Tuesday-Sunday)

Kick off your shoes

The colourful interactive world of Fred Butler. Courtesy Now Gallery.

Take your shoes off and tread across this colourful wonderland that is the brainchild of designer/artist Fred Butler. She's designed the show to be interactive as stepping on a panel triggers the show to respond and there's a chance to create an origami mascot. It's a fun exhibition and this gallery is getting a great reputation of combining art and design in exhibitions.

Fred Butler: Harmonics in space at Now Gallery, Greenwich Peninsula. Until 29 April, free. (Every day)

Domestic Goddesses

Image courtesy Paula Chambers.

Why do femininity and domesticity have to go hand in hand? Why can't men be associated with housework and women be the powerful ones? These social constructs are starting to change and four women artists have come together to use art to take on this politicised debate. Cooking utensils are turned into weapons, deadly recipes are recited and a pair of breasts lactate in this confrontational show.

Home Strike at L'etrangere, 44a Charlotte Road. 8 March - 21 April, free. (Tuesday-Saturday)


This work seeks to resemble an horrific acid attack. Image courtesy Creative Debuts.

International organisation Nasty Women have pulled together a short run exhibition that takes over a building for a few evenings with a chance to see a wide variety of fantastic artists and a chance to raise money for the worthy cause of ending violence against women.

Nasty Women exhibition: Empowerment at The Black & White building, 74 Rivington Street. 8-10 March, £5.

If that's not enough then don't forget that half of the exhibitions in our last reviews round up feature women artists as well, and all are still open.

Last Updated 06 March 2018