There are treats aplenty in store in the exhibition Women and Change, which focuses on 150 years of very different representations of women and gender in art.

5 February to 14 August 2022


Lena Johansson, Ida, 2021 (detail). Courtesy the artist and Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Paris. Thanks to Reto Schmid

What does it mean to be a woman today? What is feminine? Who defines what femininity is? Who can be female? And is femininity gender specific at all? The exhibition Women and Change unfolds how Western art history has depicted women from the Modern Breakthrough of the late nineteenth century to the most recent contemporary art. In a wealth of works of art by Danish and international artists, you can explore how artists have, over the course of the past 150 years, reflected, responded to and resisted changing perceptions of both women and gender: from Impressionist portraits to performative body art. From lush studies of nudes to critical examinations of how history is written.

Bolette Berg og Marie Høeg, Two women photographed in the studio in a boat, ca. 1895-1903. Preus Museum

From the battle for education to #MeToo

The exhibition follows the traces of art history and gender politics over the past 150 years by looking at how both male and female artists have created narratives and counter-narratives about what it means to portray women. It is a period that runs parallel to the history of the women’s movement beginning in Denmark in the 1870s, which also leaves its mark on the world of art. New ideas about women’s emancipation – and a new outlook on art – meant that more women artists got the opportunity to practice and exhibit their art. However, women artists have been written out of art history for decades. They have been overshadowed by societal narratives that women are intellectually weak and exist only to give birth to children.

From its beginning, the women’s movement sparked a hope for better circumstances and rights for women. Since then, countless artists have rebelled against traditional depictions of women, helping to expand and add nuance to our view of gender and gender identity. Since 2017, the #MeToo movement has shown us that the battle for women’s right to decide over their own bodies remains ongoing. Artists participate in this debate by continuing to create counter-positions, and by putting their own experiences into artistic studies of women and gender positions.


Guerilla Girls, Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?, 1989/2012. Courtesy Guerilla Girls

Ideals and change

In Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get Into The Met. Museum?, the artist group Guerrilla Girls highlights the excess of naked female bodies painted by men found in museum collections – and the lack of women artists.

As the Guerrilla Girls’ work demonstrates, depictions of the female body and interpretations of concepts about women are one of the most widespread motifs in art history. There are muses, madonnas, natural beings, goddesses and dangerous seducers – primarily portrayed by men. These depictions affect the narrative that we encounter in books and in museums around the world. The exhibition therefore presents works by artists that challenge our understandings of body, gender, identity – and history.

Over the past 150 years, female body ideals in art have been both established and dissolved. Some artists have carved the female body in stone or painted it in shapes that idealize it or link it closely to the power of nature. Other artists depict bodies in various stages of change that transcend or blur the boundaries of the gender.


Carla Colsmann Mohr, Interior from the Academy's School of Painting for Women, 1912. KØN - Gender Museum Denmark

Arvida Byström, Cherry Picking, 2018. Courtesy the artist. Photo: David Stjernholm

Staging and self-staging

In the flood of images found in mass media, women are used as symbols of sex and beauty. In the 1950s, pop culture gave us iconic images of women like Marilyn Monroe, and the world of advertising embraced the female body as its number one commodity and selling point. This trend quickly found its way into 1960s pop art, which drew the female icons of popular culture into art history’s long tradition of depictions of women.

Throughout history many women artists have turned themselves into the one who sees, rather than the one who is being looked at. Over time, they have created a wealth of portraits and self-portraits that challenge and expand the concepts of the feminine. Arvida Byström is one example: she conveys new images of women as she takes ownership of the sexualised world of capitalism through carefully staged presentations of herself. Byström’s use of imagery is directly connected to social media platforms, such as Instagram. For some, social media is a haven. For others, they are an echo chamber that amplify impossible expectations regarding beauty, success and popularity.


Today, many artists relate directly to the technological and digital realms that open up new avenues for the human body and communication. In the work X plus X equals X, the Swedish artist Cajsa von Zeipel explores the new potentials and clichés in today’s narratives of bodies, gender and reproduction.

Two sci-fi figures with pastel-coloured hair and clothes dripping with silicone engage in floating, rotating acrobatics. The situation is simultaneously sexy and sterile. The installation’s surplus of details from the realms of the fashion store, the fertility clinic and the strip club is posing the question: How do we understand gender and norms at a time when biotechnology gives us new opportunities to live in bodies other than the ones we were born with.

Diverse narratives

Through 117 works by 64 Danish and international artists, the exhibition delves into a number of important themes, such as: different views on the female body; portrayal of women in popular culture; how female artists have used their own bodies as material in art; and how we are currently at the cusp of a new era, where biology and technology give us new opportunities to create our own identity, our gender and our body. It raises questions about what it means not just to be a woman – and human, but also about who has a patent on defining femininity, gender and humanity.


Cajsa von Zeipel, X Plus X Equals X, 2021. Courtesy Onassis Collection

The exhibition features works by Marina Abramovic, Genesis Belanger, Bolette Berg and Marie Høeg, Dara Birnbaum, Benedikte Bjerre, Louise Bourgeois, Elina Brotherus, Nancy Burson, Arvida Byström, Claude Cahun, Sophie Calle, Cassils, Franciska Clausen, Kate Cooper, Anne Katrine Dolven, Marlene Dumas, Ditte Ejlerskov and EvaMarie Lindahl, Paul Gauguin, Guerrilla Girls, Gudrun Hasle, Lea Guldditte Hestelund, Astrid Holm, Olivia Holm-Møller, Sophie Holten, Kirsten Justesen, Lena Johanson, Birgit Jürgenssen, Marie Krøyer, P.S. Krøyer, Johannes Larsen, Marie Laurencin, Sarah Lucas, Vilhelm Lundstrøm, Ana Mendieta, Lee Miller, Carla Colsmann Mohr, Berthe Morisot, Emilie Mundt, Wangechi Mutu, Kai Nielsen, Astrid Noack, Frida Orupabo, Lene Adler Petersen, Laure Prouvost, Paula Rego, Tabita Rezaire, Pipilotti Rist, Niki de Saint Phalle, Luna Scales, Tschabalala Self, Cindy Sherman, Apolonia Sokol, Alina Szapocznikow, Vibeka Tandberg, Mickalene Thomas, Andy Warhol, Gerda Wegener, Sif Itona Westerberg, J.F. Willumsen, Francesca Woodman, Kristian Zahrtmann and Cajsa von Zeipel.

The exhibition is supported by


Experience the exhibition Women in Architecture at DAC

Get 30% discount on your ticket at Danish Architecture Center when you show your ticket from ARKEN or KLUB ARKEN card in the ticket sale. The ticket collaboration is valid from 13 May to 14 August 2022.