Komal Shah’s ‘Making Their Mark’ Exhibition of Women Artists to Travel to US Museums

“Making Their Mark,” an exhibition of women artists from the Shah Garg Foundation, has seen some 50,000 visitors since it opened at the former Dia Foundation building in New York in November. Now, it will see more when it goes on a planned tour.

The show will stop first at California’s Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in October, then the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 2025. While those venues were originally slated for the exhibition, the American Federation of Arts, which travels exhibitions to institutions throughout the United States, has taken on the show and is now set to put it on an extended tour.

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Portrait of Cecilia Alemani, standing on a section of the High Line that crosses over a Manhattan street below.

The exhibition was born as a book. Collector Komal Shah, who has been on ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list with her husband Gaurav Garg since 2018, had steadily been collecting work by postwar and contemporary women artists like Joan Mitchell, Suzanne Jackson, Joan Semmel, and Kay WalkingStick when she decided to make a book from the collection in order to bring more visibility to the artists.

The book, Making Their Mark: Art by Women in the Shah Garg Collection, was published by Gregory R. Miller & Co. last year, and includes essays by curators like Mark Godfrey and Katy Siegel. Shah then organized an exhibition, curated by High Line Park curator Cecilia Alemani, who was the curator of the 2022 Venice Biennale, an edition notable for its high percentage of artworks by women. The show that resulted from the book runs in New York through March 23.

Komal Shah, Joan Semmel, Sheree Hovsepiam, Rachel Jones, Carrie Moyer, Cecily Brown, Jenna Gribbon, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, Katy Siegel, Cecilia Alemani, Mark Godfrey

From left: collector Komal Shah with artists Joan Semmel, Sheree Hovsepian, Rachel Jones, Cecily Brown, Jenna Gribbon, Carrie Moyer, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, Katy Siegel, and curators Cecilia Alemani and Mark Godfrey.

Jason Crowley/BFA.com

AFA director Pauline Forlenza met Shah in San Francisco in 2019, when AFA was touring “Black Refractions,” an exhibition of artworks from the Studio Museum in Harlem collection. Shah had just started work on the book. When Shah opening the pop-up exhibition in New York, Forlenza went to see it.

“I was extraordinarily impressed,” Forlenza said in an interview. “Throughout its history AFA has done work in terms of telling artists’ stories, and elevating the work of underrepresented artists. There are so many stories in ‘Making Their Mark.’ We had traveled the exhibition ‘Women Artists in Paris 1850-1900.’ It was difficult at that point to be a woman artist. Fast forward to today, and women are still seeing difficulties.[Komal and I] began talking about the possibility of the exhibition, or a subset of it, going to regional museums across the country.”

Shah was keen to collaborate. AFA’s exhibition committee approved the show, and things moved forward.

The checklist and participating institutions for the traveling version of the exhibition are still being drawn up. Alemani will remain the show’s curator, but will collaborate with curators at the individual institutions, as she is doing with Margot Norton at the Berkeley Art Museum and Sabine Eckmann at the Kemper.

“I am thrilled about our partnership with the American Federation of Arts, as it will  amplify our mission to celebrate excellence by women artists and rechart art history to be inclusive of these singular talents and practices across the nation,” said Shah. Citing the more than 500 K-12 students and 125 teachers who have visited the show in Mew York, she added, “Personally, I also look forward to learning from and working with the museums to inspire students and make a long-lasting impact on local communities.”

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