In 1996, artist and philanthropist Susan Unterberg founded the Anonymous Was a Woman (AWAW) award, making a simple, yet radical commitment to redress the lack of institutional support for women-identifying visual artists over the age of 40. She sought to provide mid-career artists with the means to procure workspace, art supplies, childcare, or whatever else they needed to further their artistic careers. For the past two and a half decades, AWAW has provided unrestricted grants of $25,000 to ten or more artists each year.
Showcasing work by a selection of awardees from AWAW’s first 25 years (1996 through 2020), this exhibition explores several themes surrounding anonymity and, ultimately, celebrates the transformative impact women artists have made on contemporary art since the award’s founding. The range of artists featured in the exhibition demonstrates the demographic and aesthetic diversity of past awardees. They include Jeanne Silverthorne (AWAW 1996), Laura Aguilar (AWAW 2000), Senga Nengudi (2005), Marie Watt (AWAW 2006), Ida Applebroog (AWAW 2009), Jungjin Lee (2011), Rona Pondick (AWAW 2016), and Jennifer Wen Ma (AWAW 2019), among many others. Curated by Nancy Princenthal and Vesela Stretenović, the exhibition will be accompanied by a landmark illustrated publication featuring new essays from notable scholars and curators, as well as a roundtable conversation with Unterberg, Princenthal, and Stretenović, moderated by Lynn Gumpert, director of the Grey Art Gallery at NYU. In addition, the book will include illustrations and biographies for all 251 AWAW recipients from 1996 to 2020.
Header image: Rona Pondick (AWAW 2016), Magenta Swimming in Yellow, 2015–2017, Pigmented resin and acrylic, 14 x 17 x 17 inches, Private Collection, Boston, MA. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston © Rona Pondick. Image not for distribution.