Women in Revolt! set to take over Modern Two in Edinburgh for its only Scottish tour date

Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970-1990
Modern Two
25 May 2024–26 January 2025
Tickets £4–£14 | Friends go free
Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970–1990 | National Galleries of Scotland
A selection of images and credit lines are available in this Dropbox folder.

Be inspired by stories of collaboration, creativity and rebellion in Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970-1990 at Modern Two in Edinburgh.

The first of its kind, Women in Revolt! is a major survey of feminist art, celebrating the women whose radical ideas and rebellious methods changed the face of British culture. Come and discover the powerful and often provocative work of over 100 women artists and collectives, forged against the backdrop of seismic social and economic change over two decades. The exhibition will open to the public on Saturday 25 May and tickets are on sale now from the National Galleries of Scotland website.

Curated by Linsey Young, Curator of British Contemporary Art at Tate Britain, in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Women in Revolt! will take over the entire Modern Two gallery in Edinburgh until 26 January 2025. Following its debut at Tate Britain in November 2023, the exhibition will bring to Edinburgh a select range of works from the London show, drawing from public and private collections across the country in what will be the only chance to see this landmark exhibition in Scotland.

Women in Revolt! spans two decades of art and activism, charting a range of themes and social issues that influenced and impacted on women artists. Topics such as the Women’s Liberation Movement, maternal and domestic experiences, Punk and independent music, Greenham Common and the peace movement, the visibility of Black and South Asian women artists, and Section 28 and the AIDS epidemic will be explored in six thematic galleries platforming the creative contributions, ideas and activism of a diverse set of communities living and working in the UK throughout this period. Women in Revolt! will highlight the ways in which women challenged societal norms through their creativity, both collectively and in isolation, using their lived experiences to create art and fight injustice.

Paintings, drawings, sculptures, textiles, films, photography, and documentation of performances will be shown alongside a range of archival materials, with many artworks on display for the first time since the 1970s. Work by well-known artists including Sonia Boyce, Helen Chadwick and Linder will be displayed side by side with an array of artists who, despite their long careers, have been left out of the mainstream art historical narratives.

Featuring artists from across the UK, the powerful work and pioneering techniques of Scottish-based women artists will also be showcased. Visitors will encounter works such as Cool Bitch and Hot Dog (1978) by Edinburgh-based artist and weaver Elizabeth Radcliffe. Her sculptural three-dimensional tapestry reflects the artist’s desire to be a modern woman, defying the passive stereotypes of mother, caregiver, cleaner or sexual object. Glasgow-born artist Rita McGurn utilised a range of found and domestic materials to create work, using techniques such as crochet, a long-undervalued artistic medium due to its domestic associations. Several of McGurn’s characterful life-sized soft sculptures will go on display at Modern Two.

Select works from Scotland’s national collection will also go on display, including two important new acquisitions by Penny Slinger: Wedding Cake – Open Secret (1973) and Bride and Groom – Ceremonial Cutting of the Cake (1973). Part of her Bride’s Cake series (1973), these works document a performance in which Slinger wears a handmade wedding cake costume. The artist describes the series as ‘both a parody of a wedding ritual, and recreation from a woman’s point of view’. Further works to be seen from the Scotland’s national collection include Urania from the series Zabat (1989) by the Scottish-Ghanaian artist and writer Maud Sulter. A significant figure in the Black Arts Movement, Sulter used her practice to challenge white supremacy and reconsider history through a personal lens as a Black woman. The monumental Warrior Woman V: The Artist (1986), by Glasgow-based Sam Ainsley will be shown in Scotland for the first time in nearly four decades as part of this tour. Standing at over 11 feet tall and brimming with the spirit of protest, Ainsley’s work embodies the artist’s expression of feminist concerns, challenging the patriarchy and asserting female power.

The dramatic evolution of women’s relationships with work, domesticity and motherhood created an extensive source of inspiration for artists throughout this period. Frustrations fuelled by the expectations of domestic labour are palpable in a range of impactful works on display by artists such as Bobby Baker, Alexis Hunter and the See Red Women’s Workshop whose bold poster works challenge sexist stereotypes and directly reflect the demands and concerns of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The social and political implications of women raising a family also comes into play in works such as The Hackney Flashers’ Who’s Holding the Baby (1978). The installation critiques the lack of government supported childcare and sheds light on the impossible position of being both a mother and a worker in 1970s Britain.

The riotous and expressive era of Punk and Post-Punk movements will be examined through collage, painting, film and photography by artists and musicians including Marianne Elliott-Said (A.K.A Poly Styrene), Caroline Coon, Linder and The Neo Naturists, whose ritualistic performance art of the 1980s used bold body paint to challenge the objectification of the female form. Gina Birch, a founding member of the experimental Punk band The Raincoats, also presents her 1977 film 3 Minute Scream, where the artist can be heard screaming for the duration of a Super 8 cartridge. The film communicates a powerful statement of defiance, conveying what many young women felt but were not given the opportunity to articulate.

The art of protest and women’s role in activism will form a key element of the show, with a range of banners, posters and journals, as well as documentary photography by Format Photography Agency, and artists such as Mumtaz Karimjee, and Bhajan Hunjan telling the story of rousing, women-led protests throughout this time. Women in Revolt! focuses on causes such as the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, established in 1981 to protest the placement of nuclear weapons, as well as the Section 28 protests, fighting against laws prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality. Materials exploring the 1984 Miners’ Strike and anti-racism campaigns are also represented, highlighting the central role women have played in activism.

Women in Revolt! will also platform the crucial contribution of Black and South Asian women artists and activists. The exhibition will explore the impact of women involved in movements including the BLK Art Group and the advocacy group and archive Panchayat, as well as their role in the first National Black Art Convention in 1982. Key works by artists including Sutapa Biswas, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Joy Gregory, Pratibha Parmar and Rita Keegan will feature alongside recently conserved works such as Nina Edge’s Snakes and Ladders (1985), an installation made of batik on paper and ceramics and exhibited as part of Women in Revolt! for the first time in three decades.

The final room brings together work created in the context of the AIDS epidemic and Section 28 in the late 1980s, with a focus on lesbian communities. Discover the powerful work of artists including Jill Posener, Del LaGrace Volcano, Rosy Martin, Poulomi Desai and Tessa Boffin. Women in Revolt! concludes with works that reflect on the changing economic landscape and women’s place within it by Kate Walker, Franki Raffles and Roshini Kempadoo.

Women in Revolt! is a timely and urgent exhibition celebrating the women who paved the way for future generations through their creativity and activism. The power of their work continues to resonate with audiences today.

Anne Lyden, Director-General at the National Galleries of Scotland said: “We are proud to platform the work of women artists who have been underrepresented throughout their careers and are grateful to Tate for bringing this important exhibition to the forefront. Women in Revolt! also presents a fantastic opportunity to consider the Scottish women artists who have contributed significantly not only to the world of art, but the world around us. We hope visitors to Modern Two will be inspired by the tenacity, creativity and strength of the remarkable women they will encounter throughout this exhibition.”

Linsey Young, Curator of British Contemporary Art at Tate Britain said “Being from Edinburgh, I’m thrilled that Women in Revolt! is touring to the National Galleries of Scotland. I’m particularly excited to see it take over Modern Two where the gallery’s unique space will allow it to a develop a new character and encourage different readings of the work. It’s a real joy to be able to present works by local artists such as Maud Sulter, Sam Ainsley, Rita McGurn, Erica Rutherford and Elizabeth Radcliffe in the exhibition along with so many of their celebrated peers, demonstrating the importance of Scottish women’s artistic practice in the broader context of feminist art history across the UK.”

Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970-1990 is yours to discover at National Galleries Scotland: Modern Two from Saturday 25 May 2024. Find out more and book tickets now Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970–1990 | National Galleries of Scotland