Wunderkammer: the female gaze objectified

Gaffney, Sheila ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5894-873X and Schwab, Linda (1994) Wunderkammer: the female gaze objectified. [Show/Exhibition]


Sculptor Sheila Gaffney and painter Linda Schwab made an intervention into Leeds Art Gallery’s permanent collection, creating a dialogue around that which is saved and displayed in museum culture, and making transparent the male gaze implicit within museum collections and cultures. Gaffney created a ‘Studiolo’ siting her own sculpture, informed by feminism, in the glass fronted ‘Models Room’, a formerly concealed archive alongside 25 valuable small works and maquettes from the Leeds collection. Schwab created a ‘Cavea’, enclosing an iconic marble nude with a group of dressed chairs inviting the viewing public to sit in them, look through a peephole and become voyeurs. Research process: Practice Research with museum collection-based research led this enquiry which manifested as sculpture, painting and intervention. Research insights: The practice led conceptualisation, project management and curation of the gallery based intervention Wunderkammer: the female gaze objectified, alongside its related publication Object, made an original contribution to ways in which the sculpture collections of Leeds Museums and Galleries could be viewed, displayed and understood. The intervention into the collection was the result of a curated interaction between original artworks by artists Sheila Gaffney and Linda Schwab with selected items from the collections. Whilst the exhibited display (and the design of the book Object) provided immediate encounters that embodied questions of gender and authorship in relation to representations of women, the gallery situated intervention and dissemination provoked a wider interrogation of museum ideology. The intervention made an original contribution to ways that artistic methods can introduce civic and private collections to new audiences and individual artworks can be presented as theoretical objects.Practice and theory were combined in this project in a way that gave material form to scholarly considerations of the following topics: • female nudes in galleries and museums as made by male artists • the presentation of works of art in galleries • the objectivity of museum collections • the male gaze in museum collections • how contemporary art relates to the history of art • feminism and figurative sculpture. Dissemination: The output was disseminated via exhibition, press and broadcast coverage.

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