Press Release

National Endowment for the Arts Awards PAFA $40k Grant for Retrospective Exhibition

“Art Works” Grant From NEA Supporting First Joan Semmel Retrospective Opening at PAFA in October 2021

PHILADELPHIA (February 19, 2021) -- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is the recipient of a $40,000 Grant for Arts Project award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This grant will support the museum’s upcoming exhibition Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game, which will premiere October 28, 2021 and remain on view through April 3, 2022.

This exhibition will be the first retrospective of Joan Semmel's work—sixty years of the iconic artist's groundbreaking paintings, from her early abstract-expressionist paintings through her movement-defining feminist art and activism to the vital work that she is making of her own mature body today. PAFA's exhibition is among 1,073 projects across America totaling nearly $25 million selected during this first round of the fiscal year 2021 funding in the Grants for Arts Projects funding category.

"The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support PAFA's Joan Semmel retrospective," said Arts Endowment Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. "PAFA is among the arts organizations across the country that have demonstrated creativity, excellence, and resilience during this very challenging year."

"We are thrilled that the NEA has again recognized PAFA for our commitment to celebrating women artists," said Brooke Davis Anderson, Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum. "In a world where women artists consistently find their work sidelined from museum collections and exhibitions, PAFA's relentless commitment to collecting and exhibiting contemporary women artists is a distinguishing factor of the museum."

One of PAFA's 2021–2022 exhibitions devoted to women artists, Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game, will include more than 50 paintings that demonstrate the remarkable continuity and assiduity of Semmel's practice and focus on four main themes—erotic abstraction; the self; expressive figuration; and photography and painting—that traverse five decades of work and reveal a strong counter-narrative to the traditional telling of the history of painting in the United States from the late 1960s to today.

PAFA has successfully shifted the museum's exhibition focus to women artists and artists from diverse communities. Jodi Throckmorton, PAFA's Curator of Contemporary Art, has been awarded three NEA grants in the past three years in support of contemporary women artist projects. In response to the relevance of this retrospective, Throckmorton shared, "Semmel is inspiring to a younger generation of feminist artists. Seeing nude paintings by women of women (of themselves no less) is still a rarity in US museums." Semmel's work reflects the ongoing struggle for women's equal representation and power to make decisions about their own bodies and sexuality while centering female empowerment through the self. She continued, “As a place known for figurative painting in the museum and the school, this helps PAFA re-think and, in fact, be a leader in reforming this history that has long excluded women and art from a woman’s point of view.”

Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game brings together almost sixty years of Semmel's groundbreaking paintings, including important institutional loans; a selection of her rarely-seen drawings and collages; and a robust grouping of her current work, which foregrounds the exhibition in her still-active studio practice. The exhibition will be accompanied by a beautifully illustrated 128-page book published by PAFA with scholarly contributions by Throckmorton, Dr. Amelia Jones, and Dr. Rachel Middleman.

Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game is made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Generous support provided by the Green Family Art Foundation. Additional support provided by Linda Lee Alter, Jane and Casey Brandt, Howard Sacks and Vesna Todorović Sacks, and Isabel S. Wilcox.

Fund for Women and Art at PAFA: Championing Women Artists Since 1810

Emily and Mike Cavanagh, Ro and Martin King; the Alice L. Walton Foundation, Ralph Citino and Lawrence Taylor, Amy and R. Putnam Coes III, Marilyn Fishman and James MacElderry, Jules and Connie Kay, Sueyun and Gene Locks, John and Leigh Middleton, the Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation, Maggie and Brien Murphy, Donna Ostroff and Carl Capista, P. J. Rosenau, Howard Sacks and Vesna Todorović Sacks; Judith K. Brodsky, Elizabeth Glassman, Sharon Lorenzo, Jim and Keith Straw, and an anonymous donor. Honorary members: Rina Banerjee, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Audrey L. Flack, Marguerite Lenfest, Anne E. McCollum, Sarah McEneaney, and Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman.

Special exhibitions are generously supported by Robert E. Kohler and Frances Coulborn Kohler, the Lau Longsworth Charitable Fund, Dorothy and Ken Woodcock; the Armand G. Erpf Fund, Jonathan L. Cohen, Betsy and Kevin Donohoe, Anne E. McCollum, and donors to the PAFA Annual Exhibition Fund.

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.