Maria Balshaw Artsnight

Maria Balshaw

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significant art collections, not somewhere you'd expect


a dramatic scene of political protest.


But in April 1913, at the height of the campaign for women's


suffrage, three suffragettes entered the gallery and began smashing


the glass on some of the most valuable paintings


Their aim was not to destroy the works, but to make a statement


about the way women and their bodies were portrayed in art.


This grand protest took place more than 100 years ago,


but artists, actors, writers are still fighting


As a museum director, I sometimes wonder if the suffragettes would be


astonished about how much still needs to change.


What I want to ask in this programme is why, in 2016,


Glenda Jackson is one of Britain's greatest living actors.


Out of only a handful to have won two Oscars,


she gained a reputation for unconventional roles


and remarkable diversity on both stage and screen.


Well, I was born here and I'll die here until I fly away.


Ever unpredictable, and despite an international film


career, in 1992 she shocked the nation by abandoning acting


birthday, she's returned to acting, year, and approaching her 80th


of matriarch Didi in the BBC radio adaptation


of Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart family saga - to fantastic reviews.


What does it feel like to be back in the arts fold?


Well, it's interesting you say that because I'm somewhat dubious


of saying I'm going back into acting because the first thing I did


was for the radio, which is a medium that I absolutely love,


but many of its attractions are - (a), you never have to learn your


lines, you don't have to put makeup on and you don't have to be careful


Can you imagine going back onto the stage again?


I mean, if somebody said to me, you know, come next Friday


and you'll be on on Monday, I don't think I could do eight performances.


But if, yeah, I got myself physically fit I could,


Well, you look like you could be that fit.


In an acting career spanning over 30 years, Glenda worked with a series


of notoriously challenging directors from Peter Brooke to Ken Russell,


In 1971, she famously turned up on Morecambe Wise as Cleopatra,


All men are fools and what makes them so is having beauty


Gudrun in Ken Russell's, Women in Love, and Vicki Allessio


in the romantic comedy, A Touch of Class, both


Oh, no, I've had this place with you or without you.


Although it means sitting on the same plane I am going home


to my thin children with their straight teeth.


Although most people probably recognise her as the inscrutable


Queen Elizabeth in the 1970s series, Elizabeth R.


You came to prominence many decades ago now.


Could you talk to us a little bit about what it was like being a woman


in the theatre in the 1950s and 1960s?


Well, when I left drama school, when, God, yes, that's getting


on for almost 60 years ago now, I was told by the then Director


of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, John Furnell,


not to expect to work much before I was 40 because I was essentially


And that was a very accurate estimate of English theatre


If you're a man, in the theatre in this country, you can,


by virtue of the classical canon, I'm thinking of Shakespeare here,


go from being a young man at Hamlet to Lear or Prospero in old age


and there is a role between those two extremes of age which is matched


by Shakespeare which also matches a male development.


There is absolutely no equivalent for women.


Did you really self-consciously want to challenge that whole history


I wish I could sit here and say yes, but honestly all I cared


It didn't matter where the job came from, what it was.


I mean, if you didn't work, you didn't eat.


It's very simple, but I was particularly blessed,


I vote Labour because I am a product of the welfare state.


In the early 90s, Glenda turned her back on acting


and embarked on a career where she would exercise her legendary


passion and determination on a very different stage.


Never before has the Labour Party been needed as much


As Labour MP for Hampsted and Highgate, she deliberately


avoided the so-called "softer" issues of arts and culture


and fixed her formidable gaze on transport,


So that move to politics, you leave acting.


I mean, you had a terrifically successful career.


What motivated that move into politics?


Well, I had been doing stuff for the Labour Party of more public


I mean, I've always been a Labour Party supporter,


but it was anything I could have done that was legal that would have


got Thatcher and Thatcherism out of Government I was prepared to do.


So I never expected to be selected first time round,


but I was amazed that I was and quite amazed


So did you find any particular disadvantages coming into parliament


Well, again, one of my kind of cliche things, somebody said -


"oh, you simply changed one form of theatre for another".


I said, "if that's the case the House of Commons is remarkably


under rehearsed, the lighting is awful and acoustic


I was expected, by all those people who had been going to parliament


for donkey's years, to either be so stupid that I would simply fall


flat on my face, you know, I was an airhead, or that


I was some kind of operatic diva who would expect specialist treatment.


I mean, none of these people had ever been in a rehearsal room,


Discipline, discipline, discipline. there and how disciplined it is.


Glenda made one of her most notorious speeches during the House


of Commons' tributes to Margaret Thatcher,


when she came under fire for attacking a recently deceased


But even more inflammatory was what she said about Thatcher


To pay tribute to the first Prime Minister deputed by female


gender, OK, but a woman, not on my terms. You yourself were a,


at least the subject has a lot of debate


As I said at that time, I was raised by women.


And, their capacity for life, their acceptance at other people


with flaws and all were, what were central and essential


in defining what is in the kind of way the female aspect


of being part - I mean, we've got both in us.


But the women in my family, over generations, have been dealt


a fairly harshly stacked deck of cards, but it seemed to me it


didn't really matter what life threw at them,


they met it with the grace and with humour and the sense that


It's not something that is reserved only for a small group of people


while the rest of us look on in envy.


So looking at politics and at the theatre, why do you think


there is still such inequality between the genders?


I am shocked that creative male writers still find women so boring.


We're still seen to be a mere adjunct to the central creative


driving engine which is almost invariably a man.


But the whole of our society is infected, inflicted with this


inability to actually see women as being capable of being more


Decider, I think. We are still, I think, regardless of where we work,


regardless of what we do, a woman is still deep deemed to be


representative of her whole gender. So if she's a failure, then we're


all failures. However however, if she's a success, she's the exception


that proves the rule. I don't know how you change that. Yeah. You are


almost 80. Tell me what you think about our attitudes to older women?


How women fair as they age? Oh, you don't have to be old to hit that. I


mean, you're old certainly, oh, well before you're 40, I think, in film.


And I think - That's horrific. That hasn't changed. I mean, that was


exactly the same when I started. Which was, gosh, 70 years, no 60


years now. That hasn't changed. I don't see any major change really


within the theatre either. It's always a big, kind of, event, isn't


it, if somebody writes about an elderly woman. You think, come on,


you know... When I think of my grans, I mean, gosh - what they did.


Over 60 years of insight, what changes have you noticed and what is


it we still need to change? I can't think of any fundamental changes


that have taken place that have transformed the creative and, you


know, and going on about the writers again. There are very few and far


between that actually see women as being interesting. Over a whole


range of things that women do and I long to see that taking place. And,


I don't see that it's happened. I see no inpassions that it is going


to happen. I read that you felt that politics and acting were both about


finding out the truth of what it means to be a human being. In terms


of women's experience and women's lives, which do you feel has given


you more insight? Curiously I think they're very similar in many ways.


You know, if you look at the greatest for me would be say


Shakespeare, all he ever, ever asks is - who are we? What are we? Why


are we? They are the essential questions. That is what the best


politics try to do. How do you create a functioning society in


which the unique individuality of everybody within that society can be


best served without precluding anyone else's? That is a big issue,


but it is the question worth asking and it is something we should all be


engaged in trying to answer. Thank you. Thank you.


Sarah Lucas is probably best known as one of the Young British Artists


with a reputation for provocative sexual sculpture.


Now 53, she is increasingly being celebrated as one


of our greatest contemporary artists.


Last year she represented Great Britain at the Venice


The exhibition, entitled - 'I Scream Daddio', included a series


of casts made from the lower bodies of her eight best friends ?


And in a typically Sarah Lucas twist ? each had a cigarette protruding


Sarah rarely does television interviews, but for this programme


she's agreed to chat to me with her long-term art dealer,


gallerist Sadie Coles ? who was one of the muses..


Which one were you? This one. It felt like honour in some way.


It felt like an honour in some way because it was


Yes, and I wanted to it to be friends.


It was quite key to my ethos in general.


That it is not just some anonymous model or something.


Did you conceive it as an explicitly feminist show?


I really had to rack my brains what I


wanted it to be about and I cast my mind back to the me that is most


known about, the tough feminist of the 90s or something,


and I thought, how can I be really strong


about this and feminist or feminine without being on my soapbox


in a way, which I do not feel I am anymore?


I wanted to make an uplifting show rather than a sort of moany


I wanted art to be elevating, which it is.


Even if it is a moany think it can be quite


But I think your work is the least moany


It has always been like that because it


might be protesting about something but that is completely different


I am not mad keen on hierarchies even though they seem


In the early 1990s Sarah became famous for her


baudy works which played around with the idea of sex and gender.


Her controversial sculptures involved


taking insulting terms for male and female genitalia and making


ironic bodies out of melons, cucumbers, eggs and a kebab.


In the 1996 documentary Two Melons and a


Stinking Fish she explained what lay behind her playful use of sexual


In the same way people use humour to be able to do something


with things that are hurting them, humour is not about being nice


or having a good laugh, it is about being able to cope


with something that may be almost impossible to reconcile yourself to.


Works like Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab, were you really


consciously challenging how women's bodies


It suddenly seemed for the first time that women


actually had the most brilliant subjects to mess about with.


I suddenly felt quite sorry for men for a while,


It is one of the things that drew me to


Sarah's work and desperately want to work with her.


Her literally subverting the male gaze.


That seemed to me to be so fresh and funny and unexpected.


There were some early works where she photographed a man's body


but completely subverting the conventions of a male artist


photographing a woman's body that was so funny


Was there a point where you felt that men who were your friends


and you were working alongside were being treated differently


There was a distinct thing of, both straight from degree show


and also from frees, that a bunch of male artists


were immediately courted by galleries.


It was very disgruntling at the time.


By 1992 Sarah was having solo exhibitions so it was quite


Sarah lives and works in Suffolk and was recently the subject


The film explores how Sarah's work has evolved and shows


I came out of the Venice show with this immense sense of joy


That seemed to me not a shift but kind of a confidence.


I think Sarah got more ambitious, more empowered.


There is something for me about your work which has always


That is a really good kind of energy.


It was fascinating to talk to Sarah and


Sadie about the challenges still facing women artists but also


pretty heartening to hear they feel there are changes afoot.


I want to look at some of the ways in which


a growing number of women collectors, curators and gallerists


Italian collector Valeria Napoleone has been


Here in her London home, which doubles as her gallery,


there are works by contemporary artists from all over the world.


This is no ordinary private collection.


Out of nearly 200 works not one is by a man.


There's something over the fireplace.


Yes, this is my Mona Lisa and this is another artist I am very


The first time I saw it was in New York and I told


the galleries, if you do not sell it it is mine.


I was wondering if you felt it is even


possible to kind of recognise instantly that a work of art


I have people coming up in my place and


visiting this place and say, it does not look like by a woman artist.


I always wonder, what does that mean?


Are you expecting pans and kitchen tools?


Why do you think we find ourselves still with less than 30%


of the exhibitions in London in any year by women artists and only 10%


of Tate's contemporary collection being by women artists?


That is because the system has been always


The biggest and largest museums in the world are mostly run by men.


A lot is due also to the fact that the market, the art


Women get pregnant and get married, have


kids, they slow down their career, maybe sometimes they temporarily


stop, and that does not agree with the market that wants fast


The furniture moves around to make space for the artworks.


This is 100% Stupid by Lily van der Stokker.


She is someone who struggled at the beginning of her career to be


taken seriously because of the nature of the way


It is self reverential meaning I am 100% stupid as an artwork,


or it can be referring to the public saying you are 100% stupid


because you do not understand me, or just the plain


idea of stupidity or intelligence, what it is.


Things are changing, developing, in a great way.


This resistance is difficult to break.


Because there are powerful people resisting this.


People want to keep things the way they are.


Valeria has obviously been a powerful advocate for female


artists but there is more than one way of rocking the male dominated


The profile of prizes like the Turner has grown


significantly over the past couple of decades.


Although there has been a marked improvement in recent years


it has only been won by a woman five times in its history.


I am at the Whitechapel Gallery, home to the


I suppose I have always been quite suspicious


I believe that we should be challenging the behaviours


and beliefs that marginalise women artists rather than separating them


out, but for the sake of this programme I am happy


Established in 2005 the prize for the winning


artist is a six-month residency in Italy and crucially


they are allowed to take their family with them.


Whitechapel director Iwona Blazwick has chaired the Max Mara Prize


judging panel for the past two years.


I wanted to ask her why we really need a women only prize.


For a lot of young women when they leave


art school there is a kind of gap, a hiatus, where they have suddenly


got to find the resources to find a studio.


They need to get their work out into the world, they need


time to produce work, and also as the biological clock


ticks they maybe also think about maybe I need


All of these different pressures come to bear.


We thought it would be quite interesting to offer a prize that


looks at that moment in an artist's career.


Do you not see any dangers around the creation of girls only clubs?


I do not believe there is such a thing as women's art.


But I do believe that there are certain


physical and social and economic conditions that we share


which are mostly barriers and that those will


in some way affect how women view the world.


I think the women only shows can really be symbolic.


What I would hope is that a young woman


would encounter such an exhibition and think,


I could be an artist, or this speaks to me,


or I am not worthless, as many women are told in many many


Hopefully it triggers a sense of agency.


Here at the Whitechapel they are about to announce


the winner of the Max Mara Prize 2016.


Emma Hart impressed the judges with her proposal to spend


the residency exploring the psychology of


The work will then be shown here on a solo exhibition


A key driving force in my work is to try


and use clay and ceramics, which is a messy sexy dirty medium


to squeeze more life out of images and speak more about real


experiences and how things really feel rather than how they look.


One of the things I am working with is


the fact I am a woman and that brings about various challenges.


I am very happy that there is a prize for women,


and if it cannot fix things at least it gets us


Despite my misgivings about women only


initiatives there is no doubt that the Max Mara Prize is a really


important way to support artists like Emma Hart.


Maybe it is not the case of either challenging the mainstream


or supporting women themselves, maybe we need to do both.


As we celebrate the appointment of Frances Morris as the first


female director of Tate Modern it is clear there is a cause for optimism.


Even as we still have a really long way to go.


I am going to leave you with a clip from former


Max Mara Prize winner Laure Prouvost's film Swallow.


xwl Good evening. The weekend's weather continues on a cold and


wintry theme. There will be outbreaks of rain and sleet


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