Lars Nittve says that due to “an historical mistake” female artists are under-represented in the museum’s collection, and the imbalance must be put right.
Writing in Dagens Nyheter, Nittve criticised the museum’s purchasing policy over the last 40 years, which has led to 90% of the works in the collection being by male artists.
“The big mistake they made was in the 1960s when they bought 36 fantastic paintings. They only bought paintings by male artists,” said Nittve.
The older the art period, the worse the female representation.
In the Surreal collection there is not a single work by a female artist.
“When you look around here there’s surely a female artist among the twenty or so painters who are presented in this room – but there really isn’t,” said Nittve.
Among the early modern avant garde works, only 15% of the painters are women, while 20% of the art from 1940-1970 was by women. Only after 1970 do things level out, with 45% of the works from the last 35 years produced by female artists.
Now Nittve wants to acquire around 20 works by female artists, including Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Dora Maar.
That will cost around 50 million kronor extra, but Nittve hopes the new works can take their place in the collection before the museum’s 50th anniversary in two years’ time.
“With a one-off investment of 50 million kronor, maybe paid over two or three years, the Modern Museum’s collection could be strengthened with a series of masterpieces by female pioneers,” said Nittve.
“The art history which our many visitors would see would be completely different.”