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“Equal Pay, equal space!” was Dr. Elizabeth A. Sackler’s rallying cry at the Brooklyn Museum on October 20. Indeed, the CEO and president of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation made her purposes clear when she launched “Trailblazers: Women in the Arts,” the 2016 museum’s annual luncheon honoring women who make a significant impact on the arts landscape.
The event celebrated writer Janet Mock, artists Ellen Gallagher and Miyoung Lee, renowned curator Lowery Stokes Sims, and President of the Arison Arts Foundation Sarah Arison — five highly accomplished women who, according to Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum, “use their power for good” and “represent the best of the arts ecosystem.” The women received handmade one-of-a-kind necklaces designed by artist Kiki Smith as part of their awards.
This year’s Women in the Arts event drew a significant 150-person crowd including MoMA’s Klaus Biesenbach, artist Zoe Buckman, Art Production Fund’s Yvonne Force Villereal, Pulse Art Fair’s Helen Toomer, choreographer Bill T. Jones, artist Lorna Simpson, and more. Funds raised benefit public programs in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art and educational programs offered at the Brooklyn Museum.
The festivities also marked the beginning for the museum’s “Year of Yes”-celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which will center around 10 exhibitions over the course of 12c months, starting with artist Beverly Buchanan in the show “Ruins and Rituals”.
Pasternak, who played host for the proceedings, invited each honoree to the stage to participate in a round of Q&A sessions about their lives, passions, work, and collections. Arison took the stage first with Bill T. Jones and focused on the need for collaboration between arts organizations and more support for upcoming artists. Then, Brooklyn Museum’s chief curator Nancy Spector arrived with the venerable Lowery Stokes Sims to chat about her favorite projects and what Sims compellingly called, “strategic misbehavior.”
Next, Miyoung Lee sat with Pasternak to ruminate on collecting and having “an epiphany around a piece by Ghada Amer” while visiting the Museum in 2012. Artist Ellen Gallagher, joined by the Sackler Family Curator Catherine Morris, did a deep dive into several pieces of her work and talked about how we tend to “arrange things that are scary in literary form” to make it more palatable. Capping off the program: powerhouse and transgender icon Janet Mock spoke with writer and poet Tom Healy about her memoir, the power of storytelling as a whole and how she learned to write herself into history.
Women in the Arts was established in 2002 to recognize the outstanding contributions made by women in visual arts. Previous honorees have included Annie Leibovitz, Marina Abramović, Mera and Jennifer Rubell, Cindy Sherman, Yoko Ono, Shirin Neshat, Kara Walker, Kiki Smith, Guerrilla Girls, Maya Lin, and more.