About the VBKÖ     1910-2010

 Rudolfine Lackner

This year's centennial anniversary of the VBKÖ marks the actions of women and feminist activists which have resisted against the excusion of women and women artists from institutions worldwide over the centuries. The exhibition program, which has been international from the start, was inscribed by such pioneers as Olga Brand-Krieghammer (the 1st President), Marie Egner, Rosa Mayreder, Tina Blau, Olga Wisinger-Florian, Helene Funke, Käthe Kollwitz, Sofonisba Anguissola, Angelika Kaufmann or Berthe Morisot. In 1912, following the Parisian model, the VBKÖ rented a loft space in Vienna's inner city, thereby enabling the unhindered and entirely self-determined work on the improvement of the "economic and artistic conditions for women artists."

Some of their first political achievements, among others, were the granting of national awards to women artists, women serving on juries, and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna becoming accessible to female students in 1920. In the course of the first half of the 2Oth century, the increasingly "established" program of the VBKÖ, as well as the collective dynamics, had led on the one hand to divisions into individual women's artist groups (1919 Freie Vereinigung, 1926 Wiener Frauenkunst), and on the other hand, to the anticipated positions in the strongly profiled discourses around the .feminine aesthetic" in the 1970s.

In 1938, in contrast to the Wiener Frauenkunst which had then been dissolved, the VBKÖ became "absolved." That meant that following the implementation of the National Socialist parameters into the association's agendas (statutes, name changes, Arianization ofthe members...) that they could have, should have, or rather would have to remain active regarding the organization of exhibitions.

The historical break that the Nazi era caused during the second half of the 2Oth century strengthened the amnesia regarding all revolutionary and emancipatory potential that the first women's movement in the arts had had. The new women's movement, which was developed in the 1970s by such names as VALIE EXPORT or IntAkt (International Action Group of Women Artists, founded in 1977), formed with nearly no knowledge of their pioneering predecessors. It can be stated -not in the least because of politico-cultural reasons -that neither of the groundbreaking interest groups was able to establish itself as a political counterpart and remain innovative throughout the time of its existence.

Subsequent to the relaunch of the VBKÖ in the 1990s, both a critical assessment of its history and the recommenced construction of a contemporary art and studio program on its historical premises followed. The advancement of the interests of women artists, analyses through performative queer identity politics, feminism and society still stand as central points within the current work approach. These have been realized by internationally active artists, theorists and curators in various exhibition and project formats, publications and research projects.