Artists like Betty Tompkins are finally getting their recognition

A new section at Frieze, Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics, has turned out to be the breakout star of the fair. Curated by Dear Ivanka’s Alison M. Gingeras, the section features women artists whose work has previously been censored for decades.

Creative Boom describes the show as featuring nine solo presentations of women artists working at the extreme edges of feminist practice during the 1970s and ‘80s, all sharing a focus on explicit sexual iconography combined with a radical political agency. The work of Betty Tompkins is displayed, an artist whose series of paintings in the ‘70s depicting graphic sexual intercourse wasn’t allowed to be seen until the early 2000s.

Works by Marilyn Minter, Penny Slinger and Dorothy Iannone are also featured.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Gingeras explained the meaning of the show’s title. “It’s artists who make work that deals with sex,” she said. “And it’s sex in a broad sense, not just erotic art but also sex as a vehicle for political critique, women making work that is explicit and that challenges certain phobias within the women’s movement about pornographic representation.”

Works from the show, in spite of being mostly from the ‘60s and ‘70s, still feel fresh and relevant — likely because so many of the artists are now seeing their influence featured on a larger scale. That resistance (and now, if Instagram is any indication, acceptance) can be symbolized by 74-year-old Austrian artist Renate Bertlmann’s 1999 work Kaktus, a plastic cactus topped off with a dildo against a millennial-pink backdrop. What used to be taboo is now getting the light it deserves.

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