It’s all the rage now for female artists to be featured in museums around the globe. It’s as if the art world was embarrassed by its disregard.

Lately, in museums from Sidney to San Francisco, female artists are getting shows: Helen Frankenthaler at the New Britain Museum of American Art; Alice Neel at the Met; Faith Ringgold at the Glenstone Museum; Niki de Saint Phalle at MoMA PS1.

Carving out space for women's sculpture

The newest example is the National Museum in Stockholm’s exhibit starting March 11 of Swedish female sculptors from 1880 to 1920 titled “What joy to be a sculptor!” No small thing; sculpture has long been considered a male domain.

Never mind that early 20th-century sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington carved a life-size horse out of marble - from flanks to fetlocks, including flaring nostrils and tousled mane – and with a sword-wielding Joan of Arc in the saddle.

Huntington won first place for this work in a 1906 Paris competition, but when the judges learned the work was done by a woman, her first-place ranking was taken away from her.

The sculptures coming to Stockholm’s National Museum were made by women in the 19th century when three-dimensional art for them was confined to figurines.

The National Museum is determined to seek out and purchase these overlooked works for its collection. Not that buying sculpture by Sweden’s female artists is entirely new.

Agnes de Frumerie’s head of August Strindberg entered the museum collection in 1969.

Paying for the privilege

In recent years, three more of Frumerie’s sculptures were acquired, including her statuette Skuggrädda (Shadowy Fear), which can have you thinking of the Ukrainians fleeing from Russia’s invasion of their land.

Linda Hinners, Sweden’s National Museum curator specializing in sculpture told the press, “We’re particularly pleased to present a combined exhibition of works by women sculptors that we’ve acquired over the past few years…Creating this space for them feels like a significant step.”

Yes, it’s a start.

But this museum should also look to modern and contemporary sculpture – and in larger than figurine size.

Speaking of modern work, the director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Lars Nittve, is bent on adding female painters to his collection. He has requested $6.8 million from the Swedish government for this purpose.

According to Nittve, out of the 250,000 20th century artworks in the Moderna Museet collection, there are nine times as many works by men as by women.

The Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter quotes Nittve commenting on the dominance of male artists: “No one can claim that this mirrors the distribution of artistic talent in the world—or Sweden.”

What, no Swedish female artists?

But wait, when and if Nittve gets the funds he asked for, he won’t be able to afford the artists on his shopping list: Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, and Louise Bourgeois - none of whom are Swedes by the way.

His request for $6.8 million won’t go very far if, as he says, he’s aiming at buying work from these artists’ estates. Kahlo’s self-portrait has sold for more than $5 million at Sotheby’s, and O’Keeffe’s Calla Lilies fetched over $6 million at Christie’s.