SOHO20 Artists Inc. d.b.a. SOHO20 Gallery is a non-profit artist-run organization that has been promoting the work of women artists since 1973. The organization was founded by a group of 20 women artists in New York City, intent on achieving professional excellence in an industry sorely lacking in opportunities for women. Since its inception the gallery has been a voice for marginalized artists, fostering growth through opportunities and resources.
SOHO20’s mission is to end gender-based discrimination in the arts by demonstrating how important art by women, queer, trans, and otherwise marginalized artists is to our cultural well-being. By supporting the work of these underrepresented groups, we demonstrate the value, quality, and diversity of their contributions. For over 40 years, SOHO20 has provided exhibition opportunities, public programming, community engagement, and a site for the exchange of ideas, for the arts community both locally and worldwide, in an effort to dissolve the biases and limitations based on gender, race, or class. SOHO20 is now one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that addresses the underrepresentation of women’s work in museums and galleries.
The original SOHO20 Gallery founding members were: Elena Borstein, Cynthia Mailman, Barbara Coleman, Maureen Conner, Mary Ann Gillies, Joan Glueckman, Eunic Golden, Margaret Helenchild, Marion Ranyak, Rachel Rolon De Clet, Marilyn Raymond, Halina Rusak, Lucy Sallick, Morgan Sanders, Rosalind Shaffer, Sylvia Sleigh, Eileen Spikol, May Stevens, Suzanne Weisberg, and Sharon Wybrants-Lynch.
Most SOHO20 members joined the organization as emerging artists and have gained significant recognition through their involvement with the gallery. Many have been repeatedly cited for their artistic achievements in notorious publications such as: The Village Voice, Arts Magazine, The Soho Weekly News, Craft Horizons, and The New York Times. An October 1973 Village Voice article about Sylvia Sleigh stated: “The nude portrait and nude male portrait by a woman artist is one of Sleigh’s strongest accomplishments. Invention of any new genre is never exact, but occurs within a context; in this case, feminism and art history.” In 1980 Arts Magazine reviewed then-emerging artist, and current gallery member, Eve Ingalls, claiming, “if the 70’s has been a decade of new exploration, and I think it was, then Ingalls’ work is like a watermark, a stamp of importance upon the current art terrain.”
In the 1980s the benefits and effectiveness of SOHO20 and other artist-run galleries was widely discussed in art publications. Artspeak focused on the impact that SOHO20 had in establishing artists careers, where “some artists retain membership here while also being in private galleries; Sylvia Sleigh and Elena Borstein at Soho20, and Siri Berg at Ward-Nasse have found the added exposure of great benefit.”
SOHO20 Gallery has continued its mission of increasing public awareness of the excellence and diversity of women’s art throughout the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. Through the years, SOHO20 has increased emerging artist memberships, continued quality member exhibits, implemented fellowship members, featured numerous shows that address crucial social and political issues, organized group shows featuring women from diverse cultural backgrounds, as well as panel discussions about significant art topics.
In 1980, SOHO20 hosted the “Eight Women from Montreal” exhibit. In 1981, SOHO20 organized the “Latin American Women Artists” a group exhibit that after it’s showing at SOHO20, traveled to the Bronx Museum of the Arts in 1982. That year, SOHO20 Gallery Coordinator Reine Hauser stated, “By inviting other women to exhibit, the members shared and broadened their experiences.” With the help of outside funding (Merrill Lynch, the Austrian Embassy, The Goethe House), exhibition exchanges were made possible for SOHO20 members to exhibit in Germany in 1990 and Amsterdam in 1998, as well as to host artists at SOHO20 from the same countries.
SOHO20 Gallery gained legal non-profit 501c3 status in 1989. At that time, SOHO20 received funding from New York State Council on the Arts for two exhibition series: “Emerging Women Artists” and “Senior Women Artists, Ageless Perceptions.” Both series ran for four years and were highly attended.
SOHO20 has also become a place to feature exhibits that expose relevant social and political issues. In 1985 “Private Gone Public” was reviewed in The New York Times as “Another show of work by six ‘gut issue’ artists – all women – assembled by the art critic Ellen Lubell… (Bonnie) Lucas makes clever assemblages of baby clothes and female fripperies – laces, ribbons, glitter, fake jewelry, etc. – in not-so-demure compositions that put down accepted female roles.” In 1990, an exhibition curated by artist Faith Ringgold was a tribute to civil rights workers killed in 1964, “Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, The Mississippi Three: The Struggle Continues.” This exhibit featured works by six African-American women artists making public their personal reflections about the deaths of these civil rights workers, and about the continuing struggle for civil rights in America. Accompanying this 1990 exhibit was a “mail art” show of 400 works by 200 artists from South Africa. Organized and curated by SOHO20 member Janet Goldner, “South African Mail: Images From Inside” later traveled and was exhibited in other galleries within the U.S.
In 1990, “BLACKLISTED/WHITEWASHED/REDHANDED” was a SOHO20 exhibit with works related to issues of censorship, funding restrictions, and 1st Amendment rights. This exhibit of painting and sculpture by SOHO20 artists and artist/interns from Washington Irving HS in New York City united the visions of adult and youth artists. That same year the Organization of Asian Women and SOHO20 Gallery presented an auction of works by Asian artists (including Martin Wong, Yung Soon Min, Arlen Huang and Helen Oji) to benefit the New York Asian Women’s Center, a center that addresses the problem of mistreated women in Asian-American communities.
In 1994 with “Effect or Infect: Art and Ecology,” SOHO20 hosted an invitational exhibit of work that addresses the fragile state of world ecology. More recently, artist Nelleke Nix had a 2005 solo benefit exhibit, “Lions Share.” All net proceeds from “Lions Share”were donated to bovine tuberculosis research, and medicine for the lions of South Africa to curb the spread of the deadly disease. Also in 2005, Lucy Hodgson’s exhibition, “Undercurrents” donated sales proceeds to Mercy Corps for Tsunami Victim Aid. 2005 ended with the invitational exhibit “Small Works,” in which artist members invited other artists to exhibit for the month of December. Portions of proceeds from the sales during “Small Works” were donated to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.
Since 1994, SOHO20 has released an annual call for artists for the “Annual International Exhibit of Women’s Art.” Juried by notable artists and curators for fourteen years, this exhibit has given more than 200 artists world-wide the opportunity to exhibit at SOHO20 Gallery, and each year the best of show winner is awarded a solo show during the event.
In 2003 – 2004, SOHO20 hosted events by the organization Artists Talk on Art (ATOA). Weekly ATOA panel discussions featured topics such as: “Dialogue on Digital Art,” “Trends in Book Art,” “Overview of the Art for Transit Program,” “What is Fine Art?,” and “Museums and Alternative Spaces,” among many others. These events brought together panelists from different disciplines: established artists, critics, dealers, gallery directors and museum curators, community leaders, as well as a broad cross section of audience members from New York communities.
The 2005-2006 season at SOHO20 included four emerging artists with first-time New York City solo exhibitions; events to increase public awareness and member support of natural disaster aide; acceptance of six new emerging artist members; and an annual juried exhibit featuring the work of sixteen emerging artists.
The 2006-2007 exhibition season featured five emerging artists solo exhibits will be shown this coming exhibition year. In January 2007 SOHO20 organized a juried exhibit in conjunction with the Feminist Art Project through Rutgers University, “Adam’s Rib, Eve’s Air in Her Hair” a concept exhibit examining the many forms of Eve (female identity) and the impact of the Feminist Art Movement. Also, “Art of Argentina” in May 2007 featured a group of female Argentinean artists; most had received minimal artistic recognition beyond Argentina.
In 2015, SOHO20 relocated from its gallery space in Chelsea to Bushwick, Brooklyn – the organization’s first space outside of Manhattan. Adding numerous programs to the roster of events and activities in the gallery’s long-standing history.
In the forty plus year history of SOHO20 Gallery, more than 100 emerging female artist members have had their first New York City solo exhibitions in a SOHO20 gallery space, and more than 600 emerging artists have had the opportunity to exhibit in group shows. SOHO20 Gallery has provided not only an opportunity for exhibition, but also informal mentor opportunities for emerging artists to learn from more established artists. SOHO20 is now one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. created to address the under-representation in museums and galleries of work by women. SOHO20 members have received numerous distinctions, grants and fellowships, and are represented in major museums as well as public and private collections in the US and abroad. SOHO20 continues to support highly committed women artists through extensive exhibition programs and an exciting mix of events. A rigorous jurying process ensures the quality of gallery membership and exhibitions. The gallery’s commitment to diversity brings a broad and impressive range of works to the public’s attention each season.
Image: Screenshot of original photo by John Waggaman, 1976.