UArts Curator Sid Sachs on the Heroines of Pop Art
October 29, 2020
Sid Sachs, chief curator and director of exhibitions at University of the Arts, contributed an essay to the recently published exhibition catalog accompanying She-Bam Pow POP Wizz! Les Amazones du POP, currently on view at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Nice (MAMAC) in France.
Spanning the period from 1961 to 1973, the exhibition primarily highlights the efforts of European and North American artists. The included works illustrate the influence of heroines—from characters like Barbarella to artists such as Evelyne Axell—on the history of Pop Art. Though this movement has been the subject of numerous exhibitions around the globe, this presentation is notable for its emphasis on the role of female practitioners who harnessed stereotypical portrayals of women, popular in the media of the time, in order to defy them.
Sachs, whose curatorial vision is regularly on display at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, is well-versed in this subject matter. His expertise was previously demonstrated through the exhibition Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968, which debuted at University of the Arts in 2010 and later traveled nationally to venues including the Brooklyn Museum. Seductive Subversion was a landmark effort in expanding the critical understanding of Pop Art and was the first exhibit to examine the role of women in Pop Art. Hyperallergic cited the show as an “important and revelatory exhibition” which “amplified what many people suspected for a long time: men weren’t the only ones to make Pop Art.” The exhibit received the AICA Award as Best Thematic Museum Exhibition nationally that year, and in November 2019, Artnews cited it as the seventh most influential show of the past decade.
When Sachs first learned of plans for She-Bam Pow POP Wizz!—from an artist included in his 2010 exhibition who was also selected for the exhibition in Nice—he reached out to MAMAC director Hélène Guenin and Geraldine Gourbe, the museum’s guest curator at the time. He explains, “I was curious about who else they might be including in the exhibit, because since Seductive Subversion, the Pop canon had been substantially revised.” This sparked a correspondence during which Sachs provided key information about certain artists, galleries and estates and was invited to contribute to the catalog.
The essay Sachs’ provided, titled “Extended Thoughts on Women and Pop Art,” deepens the understanding of the contributions made by women Pop artists, as well as the often-unexplored subversive and political implications of the movement. This work builds on content he previously wrote for Seductive Subversion and marks the first time his writing on this subject has been translated into French. Revisiting this topic, Sachs reflected on the impact of his previous work, saying “When I researched and presented Seductive Subversion, no one had ever done any work in this area. It was new territory. Every major Pop Art exhibit since that time has included women.” The current show at MAMAC, on view until Mar. 28, 2021, can be seen as a supplement to this pioneering effort.