International Women’s Day 2016: 19 must-see exhibitions by women artists

| 08 March 2016

For international Women's Day, we give you 19 of the best exhibitions by Women artists in UK galleries in 2016

Mona Hatoum at Tate Modern, London, May 4 – August 21

a black and white photo of a pair of feet planted on a pavement with Dr Marten boots strapped by the laces round the ankles
Mona Hatoum Performance Still 1985, printed 1995© Mona Hatoum
The Beirut born, Palestinian, London-based artist Mona Hatoum gets a long-overdue retrospective at Tate Modern who will be surveying a body of work which has evolved from performance and video to major installations and sculptures. One of the most important artists working today.

Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern, London, July 6 – October 30


a landscape with pink folds of hills in the foreground and blue hills in the distance
Georgia O'Keeffe Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie's II 1930© Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Tate Modern's major summer exhibition is an in-depth retrospective of the Modernist artist’s glowing landscapes and "feminizing" flower canvasses - the first major show of O'Keeffe's work in the UK for a generation.

Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery, June 8 – September 8


a painting of people escaping a large landslide
Winifred Knights, The Deluge, © The estate of Winifred Knights
Another oft-forgotten genius about to emerge from the shadows at Dulwich, Slade artist Winifred Knights was one of the most original, pioneering British artists of the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition will reunite all her completed paintings for the first time since their creation, including the apocalyptic modernist masterpiece The Deluge (1920).

Georgiana Houghton’s Spirit Drawings at the Courtauld, London, June 25 – September 25

Abstract watercolour with mesh of white contour-like lines
Georgiana Houghton, Glory be to God, c.1868© Victorian Spiritualists' Union Melbourne, Australia
Georgiana Houghton (b. 1814) was a Spiritualist medium who, in the 1860s and 70s, produced an astonishing series of largely abstract watercolours. Detailed explanations on the back of the works reveal how she was guided by various spirits, including several Renaissance artists, as well as higher angelic beings. Bold colours, fluid forms and dense rich patterns and abstract art before it really existed.

Betty Woodman at the ICA, London, until April 10

A photo of three abstract vases
Betty Woodman, Red, White and Blue Vases, 2013. © Photograph: Bruno Bruchi
The first solo UK presentation by Betty Woodman (b.1930) focuses on the innovative directions in her practice over the last decade, in which she combines ceramics with painting and other media. Woodman is one of the most important artists working with ceramics since the 1950s.

Laura Ford at Abbot Hall, until June 25, and Blackwell Arts and Crafts House, Cumbria, March 11 - September 4 


a photo of two mannequins with colourful costumes and hats
Laura Ford, Medieval Cloud Girls, 2015. © the artist / Gautier Deblonde
Ford’s sculptures of animals and fantastically uncanny creatures - seemingly plucked from childhood memories - sprawl across the lawns and galleries of Abbot Hall and the galleries of sister venue Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, for a welcome double show of the influential British sculptor.  

Winifred Nicholson, Abbott Hall Gallery, Cumbria, July 8 – October 15

a watercolour of a hillside with farmhouse
Winifred Nicholson, Northrigg Hill,© estate of Winifred Nicholson
Winifred Nicholson was at the forefront of Modernist painting in the 1920s and continues to be a much sought after painter. Abbott Hall explores the many paintings she made in Cumbria, where she lived for large parts of her life.

Maria Lassnig, Tate Liverpool, May 18 – September 18

a painting of a figure in a canvas
Maria Lassnig, Inside and Outside the Canvas IV 1984–5© Maria Lassnig Foundation
Searing yet funny self-representational artwork was the hallmark of the enigmatic Austrian painter who died in 2014 aged 94. Another woman artist who only began to receive widespread recognition late in her career, Tate Liverpool presents the first major UK retrospective.

First Ladies at The Atkinson, Southport, June 4 - August 7

a print of an owl with arms outstretched
Untitled by Elisabeth Frink (print)© Courtesy The Atkinson
The Atkinson mines its permanent collection of female artists who were first at something for an exhibition celebrating women and their achievements at a time when men were the dominant force in the art world. Highlights include artworks by Dame Laura Knight and Elisabeth Frink.

Bridget Riley, Venice and Beyond, Paintings 1967-1972, Graves Gallery, Sheffield, until June 25

a Bridget Riley painting of coloured vertical lines
Bridget Riley, 3 Rise 1, 1968. © Courtesy Karsten Schubert, London
The Graves explores a key period in the work of one of Britain’s most important and accomplished abstract painters, by focusing on a breakthrough moment in the development of her work: the introduction of colour.

Janet Mendelsohn at IKON, Birmingham, until April 3

A black and white photograph of a young woman staring thoughtfully out of a window
Janet Mendelsohn, Kathleen© Courtesy Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham.
Janet Mendelsohn: Varna Road is the largest exhibition to date of photographs by the American academic and documentary filmmaker. Taken predominately in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham, the exhibition focuses in particular on a sex worker called Kathleen and provides a moving insight into a life in a community in an acute state of flux.

Laura Lancaster, New Art Gallery, Walsall, until May 8

a montage of two canvasses with a reclining woman at top and an bastract of pinks and yellows at the bottom
Laura Lancaster, Montage V© Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery Gateshead/London. Photo: David Lawson.
The Newcastle-based painter scours the second-hand shops and flea markets for inspiration from found photographs and The New Art Gallery Walsall brings together a selection of her works, all depicting figures and scenes from anonymous snapshots and home movies.

Scottish Women Painters and Sculptors, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, until June 26

a detail of a painting of a woman in bliue dress with a floral slip over the top
Dorothy Johnstone, Anne Finlay, 1920 (detail) © Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections
Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965 is a major exhibition of works by lesser-known female artists working in Scotland during the modern art period. Forty five little-known Scottish women who trained and worked as artists are featured.

Sara Barker, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until May 30

a photo of an artwork made up of wires and broken frames against a black background
Sue Barker, Change the Setting at Fruitmarket Gallery© Courtesy the artist and Fruitmarket Gallery
A major exhibition of work by the Scottish artist whose delicate sculptures embrace the freedom of the drawn line with both new and existing work that beautifully translates sketches and line drawings into almost impossibly precarious forms.

Elizabeth Price at The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until April 10

a photo of a woman in front of an artwork
Elizabeth Price at the Contemporary Arts Society Awards in 2013
Elizabeth Price: A Restoration sees the Turner Prize winner respond to the Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean Museum collections with a twenty minute, two screen video that “figuratively reconstructs” the Knossos Labyrinth within the museum’s computer server. The resulting “virtual chamber” is a place where the museum's objects “digitally flow, clatter and cascade”.

Rose Wylie, Turner Contemporary, Margate, until March 31

a painting of three people and a standing person around a table in a desert
Rose Wylie, Pink Table Cloth (Close Up)© Courtesy of the Union Gallery and the artist
Another woman artist who has only received recognition in later life, Rose Wylie's great narrative (and seemingly naïve) canvasses get a major exhibition across the cool white galleries of Turner Contemporary.

Marie Spartali Stillman at Watts Gallery, Surrey, until June 5

a painting of a people in medieval robes wandering through a spring garden with serving boys in medieval garb offering plates of food as a snowy scene can be glimpsed beyond the garden walls and entrances
Marie Spartali Stillman (1844–1927). The Enchanted Garden of Messer Ansaldo, 1889.
The story of women in the Pre-Raphaelites is rarely one of equality, but this show of landscapes, portraits, subject paintings and photographs reminds us of the talent of one of the most admired women artists of the 19th century - and a woman who was an integral part of the Pre-Raphaelite circle of Burne-Jones and Rossetti.

Daphne Wright at the Arnolfini, Bristol, October 21 – Jan 15 2017


a photo of a sculpture of two boys at a table
Daphne Wright, Kitchen Table, 2014© the artist. Courtesy of Frith Street Gallery
A major survey exhibition of work by sculptor and installation artist, Daphne Wright. Emotional Archaeology sees the gallery populated with unsettling sculptures that examine everyday experiences such as aging, parenting and our relationship with animals.

Jessica Warboys, Tate St Ives, May 21 – October 2

An abstract painting of splashes and hatches and strokes on purple, yellow and black
Jessica Warboys, Sea Painting, Dunwich, October, 2015 © Courtesy the artist & Gaudel de Stampa, Paris
New films, sculptures and large-scale paintings from an artist who uses many media in her practice. The exhibition includes a specially-commissioned work created along the Cornish coast.

Rose Wylie at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, until May 29

an abstract canvass with a female figure and two large flies
Rose Wylie, Black Strap (Red Fly), 2014© Courtesy the artist and Union Gallery
Another chance to catch the bold, large scale canvasses of Rose Wylie, this time at Chapter, who are rejoicing in Wylie’s seemingly deconstructed energetic and chaotic imagery.


What do you think? Have we missed anyone out? Leave a comment below.

Want to find an exhibition near you? Explore our regional guides:

The best exhibitions to see in the East of England in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in London in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in the Midlands in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in the North in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in Scotland in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in the South West in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in Wales in 2016
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