Femme Forward: Women in Design

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is home to an 11,000-square-foot design gallery that features modern and contemporary design from across the globe. The gallery is organized by theme and features a central podium which changes regularly to provide guests with refreshed perspectives on design’s past, present, and future.  

The latest, Femme Forward: Women in Design, examines how women have navigated around the restrictive boundaries of design and how they are sometimes still impeded by them. 

When art historians and museum curators began to study and collect design, they defined it as a field that encompasses professionalized architecture, interiors, furniture, and the mass-manufactured products that shape our lives. These disciplines have historically — and continue to be — dominated by men. Meanwhile, the fields that have been more welcoming to women were regarded as crafts, and thus of lesser importance. Design collections in museums, including the IMA’s, are overwhelmingly male. 

The women designers whose works are shown here were often pioneers or exceptions that proved the rule. Even today, women furniture and industrial designers are scarce compared to men. As you explore the gallery, contemplate what you consider to be design, art, or craft, and what types of objects may be missing from museum displays that focus on design. 

Take a tour! Women’s History Month is for everyone. This year Newfields is spotlighting women artists through a virtual tour that fits the 2024 theme “Women who advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion.” Come be mesmerized by the works of trailblazing artists that span the spectrum of race, age and artistic medium.


Image Credit:

Kay Sekimachi (American, b. 1926), Bird's Nest Basket, 1986, linen, copper wire, hand-made paper, 4 × 9 × 9 in. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Gift of Camille and Alex Cook, 2008.749. © Kay Sekimachi.