Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, Monroe, 1996, courtesy XL Gallery, Moscow

Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe

Climate change, political conflicts, the poverty trap and the economic crisis – these are the key issues today. The issue of gender roles plays a part in all of these global challenges and even has a considerable impact on our everyday life. Yet, it is not offered a great deal of attention in public debate.

“In proposing Gender Check project, I wanted to check whether similar mechanisms of power had been a stake in other countries practicing state-socialism. Our research has proved my presumptions.” Bojana Pejić, curator of Gender Check


Since 2006, an abundance of publications, symposia and survey exhibitions (for instance in Los Angeles and New York) amongst others, had tried answering questions regarding Gender in the art of the ‘West’. For Gender in the art of Eastern Europe and its specific historical conditions in the period of socialism, as well as during the upheaval that followed, a systematic exploration of these issues was still to be addressed.

ERSTE Foundation decided to cast light on ‘Gender roles’ through a complex research, exhibition and book project, ‘Gender Check’. This project looks at gender within a broader political, social, art historical and theoretical context, particularly in relation to visual art and culture from the 1960s onward.


‘Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe’ was the first exhibition, which dealt with the topic of gender roles and offered a representative overview of art from Eastern Europe since the 1960s. Chief curator was Serbian feminist and art historian Bojana Pejić who collaborated with 25 curators from 24 countries.

The exhibition followed the shifts and changes in the representation of male and female role models in art, and featured more than 400 works comprising paintings, photography, posters, sculpture, installations, films and videos.
More than 200 artists paint an exceptionally diverse picture of this chapter of art history, which, until recently, had remained largely undiscovered, but has a significant impact on contemporary gender discourse.


A comprehensive English-language catalogue (with a German text booklet) was published and parallel programmes offered additional information about this important topic to a broader public: film screenings, panel discussions and lectures.

The scientific basis for further research also provides the collection of essays ‘Gender Check: A Reader – Art and Theory in Eastern Europe’. This anthology is the first representative collection of essays investigating gender issues in social, cultural and artistic contexts in Eastern Europe.

Within the programmes of ERSTE Foundation, ‘Gender Check’ is the largest project that has gender as a focal point. The Foundation contributed a substantial amount of the project and exhibition costs, initiated the project and coordinated the nearly two-year-long research phase during the run-up.

200 artists from 24 countries, 400 works of art, 25 researchers

“The most important question which I came across was the incompatibility between Western feminist theories and interpretations of the work in the former Eastern Bloc. Applying this theory simply to the Eastern and Central European context, the situation gets to reduce and one eventually forgets to ask about important key issues.”

Izabela Kowalczyk, Polish art historian, Gender Check research team

After its successful launch at MUMOK in Vienna, from 13 November 2009 to 14 February 2010, the exhibition also visited the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw (18 March to 13 June 2010).