23.1.20 - 21.6.20

The American artist Nancy Spero (1926-2009) was a feminist pioneer. As an activist in the 1960s, she leveled her art against all existing power structures, notably political oppression, racism, and male hegemony.

An exhibition of Museum Folkwang, Essen, in cooperation with Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Stockholm, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Lillehammer Art Museum. Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Dealing with the violence in her time – World War II followed by the Vietnam War and Third World oppression – Spero’s work also aspired to define a different material, drawing inspiration from ancient cultures. Long paper friezes are inhabited by supernatural figures, fighters, and lovers, often in cyclical processions placing women at the absolute center of the world.

Artistic protest

Early in her artistic career, Spero made the decision, in opposition to most of the American art world, to work figuratively. Later she chose to stop painting with oil on canvas to work exclusively with paper as her pictorial medium.

In 1972 she co-founded the first all-women and non-profit A.I.R. Gallery in New York and at the same time, Spero decided to exclusively depict females in her art.

war and male dominance

Nancy Spero was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and trained at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1949. Subsequently, she spent several periods in Paris. In 1964, she settled in New York in a changed USA that had entered into the Vietnam War. Spero joined the anti-war movement, participated in various actions, and became engaged in groups such as Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam.

In succeeding years, the war became the most important theme in Spero’s art, and in 1966-1970, the War Series arose, a succession of more than 100 works that unrelentingly condemned the Vietnam War.

The exhibition was the first presentation of the artist’s work in Denmark.