Gender Check: First comprehensive study on gender issues in the art of Eastern Europe presented in Vienna, followed by Warsaw

The exhibition Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe will be inaugurated at Vienna’s Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK) on 13 November 2009 and will then travel to Warsaw, where it will be opened at Zacheta National Gallery of Art on 18 March 2010. ERSTE Foundation initiated the overall project that led to the realisation of Gender Check. It commissioned and coordinated initial research work, which involved collecting material to document gender roles in the art of Europe’s 24 former Socialist countries – the most comprehensive investigation of its kind to date. Gender Check is the largest project within the scope of ERSTE Foundation’s focus on the topic of gender, which is dealt with in several of its programmes.

This year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain, a moment of particular importance in Central and South Eastern Europe. To mark this event, ERSTE Foundation, which is active in this region, launched a call for proposals for an exhibition concept in the autumn of 2007. Seven international curators were selected by a jury consisting of ERSTE Foundation representatives Christine Böhler, director of the Culture Programme, and curator Christiane Erharter, as well as of members of the PATTERNS Advisory Panel. This advisory panel has been advising ERSTE Foundation’s Culture Programme on content issues since early 2007. It currently comprises Romanian curator Cosmin Costinaş, the director of Steirischer Herbst Veronica Kaup-Hasler, Polish art historian Piotr Piotrowski and Austrian critic, curator and editor of springerin magazine Georg Schöllhammer.

Of the five proposals, the jury selected the concept submitted by Berlin and Belgrade-based curator Bojana Pejić. Her exhibition project Gender Check focuses on gender differences in Eastern European art from the 1960s to the present day. How are men and women depicted in recent visual art? And what role does the gender of producers, mediators and recipients play? How are female and male viewers influenced by female artists and theorists compared to male artists and theorists? The search for an answer to these questions with regard to art from the West has resulted in a wealth of publications, symposiums and group shows in cities such as Los Angeles and New York, in particular since 2006. What was lacking, however, was a systematic investigation of these questions in the case of Eastern European art, examining how it developed during the Socialist era and the radical changes that ensued after the break-up of the Eastern bloc.

“Climate change, political conflicts, the poverty trap and the economic crisis – these are the key issues today,” says Christine Böhler, director of ERSTE Foundation’s Culture Programme. “The issue of gender difference plays a role in all of these global challenges and even has a considerable impact on our everyday life, yet it is not afforded a great deal of attention in public debate. It was precisely this reason that led us to opt for the project by Bojana Pejić.”

The pioneering nature of Gender Check meant that it would require extensive research, which also made it an interesting prospect. Twenty-five art historians and art critics visited archives, museums and libraries. They scoured artists’ legacies and exhibition catalogues in 24 countries from the Baltics to the Caucasus. In a major research project of this kind, cooperation between a private foundation and a public institution is particularly valuable as public institutions are rarely able to undertake such exhaustive investigations in preparation for their exhibitions.

MUMOK proved to be an excellent partner, whose professionalism, excellent reputation in the field and team were able to transform the researchers’ findings into an exhibition of international relevance, which will be shown in Poland, following its initial stint in Vienna. Warsaw’s Zacheta National Gallery of Art will host the exhibition from 19 March 2010.

Gender issues in ERSTE Foundation programmes

Gender studies have been a focal point of ERSTE Foundation’s work since 2007 and Gender Check (research and exhibition tour) represents the Foundation’s largest project to date in this field. With its three programmes Social Development, Culture and Europe, ERSTE Foundation sees itself as a creative factory for ideas and innovation, a laboratory to explore the topics of the future. Gender issues feature in all programmes and are not only developed on an interdisciplinary basis, but are also discussed within the Foundation’s manifold networks.

In 2010, as part of its sociological series, ERSTE Foundation will publish a collection of case studies entitled Gendering Transition. Studies of Changing Gender Perspectives from Eastern Europe examining gender roles in the context of social changes from a sociological perspective. Nine researchers from South Eastern Europe investigate the challenges of single parenting, the causes of homelessness, media and pop culture, the situation of sexual minorities and the development of care in the home from a gender perspective and look back on the history of feminism in the region.

The fellowship programme, a joint initiative established by ERSTE Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung to support ten journalists from the Balkans each year, focused on the topic of Identities in 2009. Articles from the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence 2009 also include reports on gender identity. Further examples of initiatives funded within the scope of various ERSTE Foundation programmes that touch on gender issues include the art project Feminisme by the Romanian artist group h.arta (, Replaying the Balkans, organised by the Croatian initiative Domino ( and Live Art East, a conference on women and performance art in Eastern Europe run by City of Women ( from Slovenia.


The exhibition Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe is the first comprehensive overview of Eastern European art since the 1960s to focus on gender roles. It features more than 400 works comprising paintings, sculpture, installations, photography, posters, films and videos. More than 200 artists paint an exceptionally diverse picture of this chapter of art history that remained largely undiscovered until recently, and which has a significant impact on contemporary gender discourse. Gender Check follows the shifts and changes in the representation of male and female role models in art, taking a particular look at how they developed under different socio-political conditions. The exhibition depicts the interrelationship between art and history, taking both a chronological and thematic approach.

Exhibition details

Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe


MUMOK, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna, Austria

13 November 2009 – 14 February 2010

Press conference: 12 November 2009, 10 a.m.

Opening: 12 November 2009, 7 p.m.

Symposium: 13 and 14 November 2009


Zacheta National Gallery of Art, pl. Malachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw

19 March 2010 – 13 June 2010

List of countries and researchers:

Albania (Edi Muka), Armenia (Eva Khachatryan), Belarus (Almira Ousmanova), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dunja Blažević), Bulgaria (Maria Vassileva), Croatia (Ivana Bago), Czech Republic (Martina Pachmanová), Estonia (Katrin Kivimaa), Germany (Angelika Richter), Georgia (Lali Pertenava / Nino Tchogoshvili), Hungary (Edit András), Kosovo (Erzen Shkololli), Latvia (Mara Traumane), Lithuania (Laima Kreivyte), Macedonia (Suzana Milevska), Moldova (Lilia Dragneva), Montenegro (Bojana Pejić), Poland (Izabela Kowalczyk), Romania (Alina Serban), Russia (Keti Chukrov), Serbia (Branislav Dimitrijević), Slovakia (Zora Rusinova), Slovenia (Urška Jurman) and Ukraine (Hedwig Saxenhuber).

Selection of featured artists:

Anri Sala, Anita Arakelyan, Anna Koushar, Ismet Mujezinović, Šejla Kamerić, Alla Georgieva, Sanja Iveković, Tomislav Gotovac, Běla Kolářová, Veronika Bromová, Mare Tralla, Cornelia Schleime, Fritz Skade, Emese Benczúr, Orshi Drozdik, Tibor Hajas, Erzen Shkololli, Aija Zariņa, Zenta Dzividzinska, Egle Rakauskaite, Sofija Veiveryté, Zaneta Vangeli, Valentina Rusu-Ciobanu, Jelena Tomašević, Wojciech Fangor, Katarzyna Kobro, Katarzyna Kozyra, Alexandra Croitoru, Ion Grigorescu, Lia Perjovschi, Anna Alchuck, Oleg Kulik, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, Marina Abramović, Tanja Ostojić, Anetta Mona Chisa/Lucia Tkacova, Jana Želibská, Tadej Pogačar, Duba Sambolec, Arsen Savadov & Oleksandr Kharchenko, Boris Mikhailov and many more.

Exhibition catalogue

With essays by Edit András, Keti Chukhrov, Branislav Dimitrijević, Katrin Kivimaa, Izabela Kowalczyk, Suzana Milevska, Martina Pachmanová, Bojana Pejić, Piotr Piotrowski, Zora Rusinová, Hedwig Saxenhuber and Georg Schöllhammer; approx. 350 pages, 23 x 30 cm, English edition, approx. €35.00,

ISBN Engl: 978-3-902490-57-5

Symposium “Reading Gender. Art, Power and Politics of Representation in Eastern Europe”

A two-day symposium will be held at MUMOK on 13 and 14 November 2009. It aims to examine the research findings in greater depth and serve as a forum for debate on insight provided by the exhibition. Twenty-seven experts from across the world will discuss the role of feminist theories in Eastern Europe with regard to developments in the West, the significance of transgender positions and the new definition and revision of canonical ideas of gender.

Symposium participants:

Juan Vicente Aliaga, Edit András, Ivana Bago, Christine Böhler, Keti Chukhrov, Ana Daucikova, Katy Deepwell, Silvia Eiblmayr, Rainer Fuchs, Marina Gržinić, Katrin Kivimaa, Izabela Kowalczyk, Vjollca Krasniqi, Laima Kreivytė, Suzana Milevska. Jet Moon, Agnieszka Morawinska, Gislind Nabakowski, Almira Ousmanova, Bojana Pejić, Griselda Pollock, Angelika Richter, Hedwig Saxenhuber, Johanna Schaffer, trafo.k, Mare Tralla and Mara Traumane.

With performances by Egle Rakauskaite: For Guilty without the Guilt. Trap. Expulsion from Paradise (Friday, 13 November 2009, 7:30 p.m.)


ERSTE Foundation, Communications

Maribel Königer, Tel. +43 50100 15453, e-mail:

Jovana Trifunovic, Tel. +43 50100 15844, e-mail:

ERSTE Foundation

ERSTE Foundation is active in the Central and South Eastern European region. Together with its partners, it creates a hive of activity for common good. Founded in 2003 it began its work two years later by developing its three programmes Social Development, Culture and Europe. It understands culture as a driving force for an open society and believes in its ability to forge links between diverse linguistic and geographical regions. ERSTE Foundation is the legal successor of the 190-year-old “Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse”, the first Austrian savings bank. Its two commitments are based on these historical roots: as the mayor shareholder ERSTE Foundation safeguards the future of Erste Group as an independent company and invests its dividend into activities that promote the common good. This makes ERSTE Foundation a unique institution of this kind and size in Central and South Eastern Europe.

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