Female Art Dealers in Mid-20th-Century Britain

Abi Shapiro, The Hepworth Wakefield, abishapiro@hepworthwakefield.org

Sarah Victoria Turner, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, svturner@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk

Female art dealers were integral in expanding the horizons of modern art in mid-20th-century Britain, yet the significance of their work remains marginalised in art histories. Erica Brausen, Lillian Browse, Peggy Guggenheim, Lea Bondi Jaray, Annely Juda, Helen Lessore, Halima Nalecz, Peter Norton, Ala Story and Lucy Wertheim (among others) promoted emerging and established British and international artists. Their activities created avant-garde networks that became sites of cultural exchange across geographical and disciplinary borders. Providing not only crucial financial infrastructures for new art markets, they also gave social and emotional support to artists. What happens if, rather than being known for their supporting roles as facilitators, these women are recast as active agents in art-historical discourses? How can modernist narratives account for them and their commercial ventures? Can we configure collective and collaborative histories where these women – many of whom were queer and/or Jewish émigrés refugees – are recognised for their role in modern art in Britain?

We seek papers exploring the work of female* art dealers in mid-20th-century Britain and their impact on its discourses (*including those who identified with unconventional definitions of gender and sex). Within this area, topics could include:


  • individual and gallery legacies in art history and public art collections
  • international exchanges that shaped modern art
  • relationships between private and public art institutions
  • professional and personal relationships between dealers, collectors and artists
  • queer intersections between private and public art worlds
  • lesbian subcultures
  • ‘otherness’, refugee émigré and Jewish female subjectivities.


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