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Frida Kahlo, “The Broken Column” (1944)
Frida Kahlo, “The Broken Column” (1944), Oil on Masonite, 39.8 cm × 30.6 cm©Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / DACS 2021

From Frida Kahlo to the Birth of Venus: art’s long eye on the female body

VOMA’s virtual exhibition, Reclaiming the Body, gathers together artistic ideals of womanhood and female sexuality across centuries and the world

While there’s no substitute for the magic of being in the actual presence of great artwork, the advent of COVID-19 has encouraged us to diversify the way we consume and experience art. As galleries, art institutions, and museums around the world have been forced to pivot towards digital exhibitions, it’s created opportunities for a greater number of people to access culture. A virtual exhibition has the scope for bringing together works of art that would otherwise be unlikely to ever inhabit the same space.

VOMA claims to be the world‘s first virtual museum, which opened its digital doors last year amid the pandemic. It aims to bring together seminal works of art from the world‘s most prestigious institutions, no matter the IRL location. Initially conceived by artist Stuart Semple as a means of democratising art by bringing masterpieces and work by new artists to a global audience, the museum welcomed visitors from over 50 countries and recorded half a million interactions within the first fortnight alone. 

Reclaiming the Body is its latest virtual exhibition, bringing together the likes of Botticelli’s 15th-century masterpiece, “The Birth of Venus” from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and places it next to “The Broken Column” by Frida Kahlo, which usually resides in Mexico City’s Museo Dolores Olmedo. The show also includes works by Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta, alongside works by notable artists such as Huguette Caland, Adelaide Damoah, Trulee Hall, and, from the canon, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Peter Paul Rubens. 

The exhibition explores the ways in which the image of the female body has been used throughout the ages to express ideas of identity and renewal, with the artworks on display reflecting the shifting dominant ideas about women in society. From classical art to contemporary depictions of womanhood and female sexuality, this exhibition allows us a look at the nude over centuries of great artworks. “The pillars of art history are built on some problematic foundations – towering masterpieces with imagery rooted in classical European depictions of male dominance,” says VOMA Director, Lee Cavaliere. “This exhibition looks at how this imagery may have historically helped to bake social prejudice against women into our cultural fabric, while at the same time presenting a new affirmation, in the renewal and reclamation of the female body by contemporary artists.”

Breaking Into Colour is VOMA’s coinciding exhibition, which is a celebration of the midcentury move towards colour and abstraction. This exhibition features seminal paintings by Mark Rothko, Piet Mondrian, and Yves Klein, highlighting a focus on artists who privilege colour – as an environment and an experience – over form. It also includes incredible works by their present-day successors, such as the celebrated Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, abstract impressionist Joan Mitchell, and colour studies by Josef Albers. 

Visit the gallery above for a look at some of the stunning works on virtual display at VOMA right now. 

Reclaiming the Body and Breaking into Colour are now showing at VOMA until June 2, 2021