Guerrilla Girls: Famous, faceless feminists take aim at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Guerrilla Girl "Käthe Kollwitz" poses in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston Thursday.

An artist-activist who goes by the name Käthe Kollwitz sat on a bench Thursday outside the Museum of Fine Arts, speaking seamlessly through a gorilla mask about her stances on sexism, feminism, and pop-culture.

Kollwitz is a member of the Guerrilla Girls, a New York City-based group of cultural critics that, for 27 years, have made headlines for edgy billboards and banners calling out society for sexism and other inequalities.

“We decided to be anonymous because the art world was such a small, clubby place. And the mystery attracts attention,” she said before taking a moment to humor a passing tourist with a camera.

In September, a mobile billboard that called out the museum for having only 11 percent of female-created artwork on display was parked only steps away, in front of its Huntington Street entrance.

Another Guerrilla gripe; no lack of nude women on the walls.

According to MFA Spokeswoman Dawn Griffin, there are no hard feelings about the Guerrilla Girls’ take on the museum. To the contrary, officials there were happy to hear from the artist-activists.

“We knew the billboard was coming, and we were thrilled because they’ve been part of contemporary art history. We were pleased that the MFA was the subject of a Guerrilla Girls poster,” Griffin said.

In 2012, about 40 percent of the art added to the contemporary art wing were created by female artists.

“We were quiet pleased with the percentage of artists. We’re never going to collect art simply because the artist is female. We just want to collect the best contemporary art that is out there… We feel like we’re on track.”

Kollwitz admits that there has been progress on a societal level – but not enough.

“I think things have changed, and we’ve been a part of that change, but there is still a long, long, long way to go. There is still a lot of hatred and misogyny in the United States,” she said.

The MFA joins the ranks of several museums across the globe that have taken hits from the masked critics.

Since the group’s inception in 1985, its members have opted to be anonymous.

Kollwitz takes her pseudonym after a German expressionist painter and art dealer.

Another masked avenger, going by the name Frida Kahlo, is expected to join her in Boston this weekend at the gallery to speak at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, where an exhibition of Guerrilla Girls artwork will be displayed until December.

The multimedia exhibition is called “Not Ready to Make Nice, Guerrilla Girls in the Artworld and Beyond,” and presents artwork from the 80′s and 90′s, behind-the-scenes photos, posters, banners and billboards.


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