If you have ever walked the halls of the Palace of Westminster – or frankly – any Government building, you have no doubt taken in the artwork around you. You’ve also probably not missed the fact that such artwork is more often than not dominated by male subjects.
The 209Women Exhibition, which opens for free to the public today, celebrates the female MPs whilst making a clear statement about the lack of women in art. The exhibition’s curator, Hilary Wood, told the British Journal of Photography in September that “politics and photography are both male-dominated, so we wanted to show not just the women who have become MPs, but also the female photographers.”
All 209 of the current female MPs have had their portraits taken by female photographers. The exhibition, to mark one hundred years since women first gained the right to run for Parliament, is being hosted by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. November 21st marked one hundred years since the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, which gave women over the age of twenty one the right to run for public office. December 14th marks one hundred years since the first women voted in the United Kingdom. The exhibition opens today to mark the anniversary. Once its run ends in Westminster in February, the exhibition will move to the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.
The portraits each differ in artistic style, as the exhibition “will be showing MPs in a way they have never been seen before” according to its curator Hilary Wood. For example, Nadine Dorries is pictured standing on her desk in heels, Helen Whately is photographed in an Apple farm, and Mims Davies’ portrait sees her standing at the heart of the Commons chamber. Each potrait aims to show its female subject in their own unique light, with some photographed in and around parliament, while others are pictured in their constituencies.
As well as fittingly marking the anniversary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act – and showing how far we have come in terms of female representation in Parliament – it also serves as a timely reminder of the lack of female representation in official portraits and statues. This year also saw the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett’s statue – the first female statue in Parliament Square – returning the debate to the forefront of the media.
The exhibition is on display in Portcullis House from today until February 14th.
You can get free tickets here.