Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cherchez La Femme: Grace McCann Morley

Everybody is doing the "best of 2010" shuffle - the 10 best books, the 10 best movies, the 10 best food items, high heeled shoes - you name it and somebody has it on a "best of" or "worst of" list. Instead of the ten (and what's with the magic number of ten), I'm going to list the women in, around, living or (alas) dead who impressed me this year.

Grace McCann Morley:

When I started writing my articles on the lack of women artists at SFMOMA, it never occurred to me one of the most striking omissions was that of Grace Morley, the first director of SFMOMA (1935-1960). She built the museum from the ground up, bought the paintings that provided the keystone of the collection, defended her purchases and created a vibrant place for culture. I've lived in San Francisco for forty years, been a practicing artist and an avid museum goer and I'd never heard of her.

So, why has it taken SF MOMA so long to honor her? She was the key figure in the development of the museum, establishing the SFMA (the early name of SF MOMA) as a major American museum. She also founded UNCECO's museum division after WW II and after leaving San Francisco, moved to India where where she helped found Indian's National Museum.

Not only that, but she got paid less than her male peers. According to Kara Kirk, who is the only one to write anything in depth on Morley, her starting salary was $2,400 a year, just under half of the sum being paid at the time to the director of the Minneapolis Museum of Art -- and a fraction of Alfred Barr's $9,000 starting salary at MoMA.
I also did two or three articles at the blog - do a search of you are interested)

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