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Researching Women in Sculpture

Recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in women’s contribution to the field of sculpture, with outputs ranging from publications, research projects, exhibitions, podcasts and lecture series.

Yet, despite this increased activity, the very act of researching women’s sculptural practices is still problematic, beset by challenges due to lack of accessible archival material and poor documentation of artworks, many of which are geographically dispersed across public and private collections. Where archival material exists, it is often split across multiple collections or remains difficult to identify due to changes to a woman’s working name or having been catalogued under a husband’s papers.

This research season aims to provide a space to reflect upon such issues, investigating archival and collecting practices that have historically obscured work by women practicing in sculpture and suggesting strategies for how these might be addressed going forward.

Events will provide a spotlight on archives and collections with strengths in the area of women’s sculptural production, as well as creating links between related collections. Topics will include the role of art school archives, oral histories and women’s studio-home museums, and there will be opportunities to gain practical advice on archive and collections care. Particular attention will be given to the intersection of gender, class, sexuality and race in collecting practices and the need for archives to improve representation of work by women of colour and those identifying as trans or non-binary.

Researching Women in Sculpture is organised in collaboration with Rosamund Lily West, who worked as Research Curator from 2019 to 2021 on the Paul Mellon Centre funded project Pioneering Women at the Heart of the Royal Society of Sculptors. Rosamund is currently completing her PhD on post-war London County Council sculpture on housing estates with Kingston University.

Displays and events in this series:

Research from this season has informed displays in Gallery 4 and our Sculpture Research Library, which showcase the important holdings relating to women in both the Leeds Sculpture Collections and Archive of Sculptors’ Papers.

We look forward to welcoming you back for a series of in-person talks, conferences and workshops, which will take place during spring and summer 2022. Full details of the programme will be announced here soon.