America’s First All-Women Art Gallery, Back in the Spotlight

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Mary Beth Edelson's Goddess Head, 1974.Photo: Courtesy of Accola Griefen Gallery

In 1972, 20 female artists opened the first all-women gallery in the U.S. They named it A.I.R. Gallery for “Artists in Residence,” cementing a place for women as “permanent residents” of the art world. At the time, New York’s commercial galleries sold almost exclusively works by male artists.

On Tuesday, nearly a half-century after A.I.R.’s founding, artworks by a few of the gallery’s original founders and artists will be showcased as part of New York Art Week.

At the art fair CONTEXT New York, which debuts this week as a complement to the contemporary fair Art New York, the Accola Griefen Gallery booth will spotlight early paintings and sculptures by an inspiring cast of women: A.I.R. co-founder Mary Grigoriadis, who helped spearhead the pattern and decoration movement; Mary Beth Edelson, an early A.I.R. artist whose famous 1974 Goddess Head will be on display; and Pat Lasch, an early A.I.R. artist who, as the daughter of a German pastry chef, is known for her confection-inspired sculptures. The gallery will also showcase works by installation and sculptural artists Judy Pfaff and Nancy Cohen.

Click ahead to see their rich oil paintings, ceramic seashells, and one delicate beaded gown. CONTEXT New York and Art New York will be at Pier 94 from May 3–8.