The Women’s Art Library (WAL) holds an extensive archive with a rich history of collecting. It’s roots were established in 1976 when a small group of women artists began to collect slides from other women artists to establish a record of their work. The Library first opened its collection to the public in 1982 as the Women Artists Slide Library during the ‘Women Festivities’ held in London. The Library was then housed in Battersea Arts Centre, Battersea, London. In 1987 the Library moved to Fulham Palace at the invitation of the Women’s Unit of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. In 2000 the Library relocated to the Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design, Charing Cross Road, London. In 1993 the Library was relaunched as the Women’s Art Library to reflect the broader range of materials, for example published and unpublished written documentation and photographs which the Library acquired in addition to the slides. The name of the Library was changed in May 2001 to MAKE, the organisation for women in the arts. As part of Goldsmiths Library Special Collections, the Women’s Art Library continues to collect slides, artist statements, exhibition ephemera, catalogues, and press material in addition to audio and videotapes, photographs and CD-Roms. As a result of the efforts of the Library, thousands of artists from around the world are represented in some form in this collection.
We needed some inspiration to decide on which artists and what content to include in an app that can initially hold only 60 MB worth of content. And here we return to an earlier post, in which I referenced two books I was reading in the ‘magical realism’ genre -The Museum of Extraordinary Things and Eva Luna – two fabulous and inspirational tales of the journeys of women who triumph over adversity. Since we needed to pick a starting point, the initial artists featured are in one way or another linked to the broader theme of ‘magical realism’ (very broadly speaking as this includes the ‘feminine’, the ‘fantastical’ and the ‘surreal’ among other artistic traditions). We do not mean to categorise the un-categoriseable, instead we wanted to simply pull one thread of many and see what comes of it. We hope you will enjoy what will be featured on display.