With over 100 female artists exposing their works on the walls of the prestigious Tate Britain gallery walls, the Women in Revolt! Exhibition explores the themes of female and racial discrimination from the 1970s to the 1990s, where female activists assembled at conferences to voice their outrage during a time of political and social turmoil.
Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970 - 1990, the Tate Britain’s currently most popular exhibition brushes over revolutionary feminist art between 1970 and 1990, a time where women were actively challenging for a shift in economic, political, and social discrimination in the UK. Where personal experiences become political art, this exhibition not only displays historical facts for an ongoing intersectional issue, but also serves as an homage to those who have passed and actively fought for the struggle.
What is the Women in Revolt! exhibition about?
Women were fed up with being considered second class citizens despite the 1975 Equal Pay Act, due to continuous issues of sexual discrimination and violence, maintaining gender roles, and unfair maternity laws. Thus, people (and in this context, women in particular) would organise conferences, such as the 1970 National Women’s Liberation Conference, to share their experiences and express their suffering through art and protest.
Therefore, pieces present at this exhibition have actively helped fuel the women's liberation movement through a harsh social, economic and political context. Despite reproductive rights, equal pay and race equality laws being adopted in the 1970s, these were only mere progressive actions towards a much larger issue. With this, the new wave of feminism had actively paved the way towards the creation of women’s refuges (for those suffering from domestic violence for example) and the formation of the British Black Arts Movement, attained only through radical ideas and rebellious attitudes.
What to see at the Women in Revolt! exhibition
Whilst the exhibition Guide provides an excellent overview of the whole gallery, we’ll go over various works that are well worth a visit.
This exhibition assembles very diverse feminist art forms: from paintings to photography to film to performances treating challenging disciplines and topics. The core of the exhibition follows a chronological order and segmentation of the various types of female discrimination in the UK throughout the 70s and 80s.
In other words, the galleries represent a unique movement of organisers, agitators and community leaders that make up a perfect blend of revolutionary and exemplary feminist art that will live on for decades.
Starting off with “Greenham women are everywhere”, this gallery exposes the various works of an anti-nuclear feminist group, “Women for Life on Earth”, who had challenged the UK hold of 96 nuclear missiles by walking from Cardiff to the Royal Air Force in Greenham, Berkshire on the 5th of September, 1981. They even organised large-scale public movements such as the 14 mile human chain of 30,000 people in the fight against society’s conditioned gendered roles.
The second part of the exhibition is “Black Woman Time Now”, a discourse about the intersecting discrimination that women of colour suffer from in the UK. While this is an ongoing struggle, the gallery focuses on the efforts put forth in the 1980s and the emergence of ‘political blackness’ at a period where gender and racial inequality was socially awakened. In fact, some pieces included in this part of the gallery are lent from curated exhibitions back in the day!
Nearing the end of this part of the exhibition hangs the works of the original “Four Indian Women Artists” exhibition first programmed in 1981, featuring the works of women of colour for the very first time in the UK.
Finally, the exhibition closes on a brief comment on the Thatcher years as well as a honourable mention for Gael Elizabeth Stuart (1955-2020) who had inspired it all in the first place.
Book tickets now before the end of February!
We highly recommend you listen to the Women in Revolt! Podcast that describes the exhibition’s themes, values, artists and history. Available on Spotify.
How to get there
By tube: Take the Circle Line to “Victoria” and the Victoria Line before making the “Pimlico” stop, followed by a 10 minute walk to the Tate Britain Museum.
By bus: Take the C10 to Victoria and make the “Chelsea College of Arts” stop or the 87 to Wandsworth and make the “Tate Britain / Millbank Millenium” stop.