University of Leicester
2019MCPHAILKGPhD.pdf (2.93 MB)

Feminist Art Histories and Masculinity: Reading the Mainstream Art Museum

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posted on 2020-12-11, 11:10 authored by Kyle Grey McPhail
This thesis investigates the impact feminist art histories have had on mainstream art
museums. The key finding of this thesis is that masculinity, or the traditional heteromasculine
box, continues to impact the mainstream art museum. The research is
approached through two case studies: Tate Modern, London, and the National Portrait
Gallery, also in London. Each case study is conceptualised as comprising three,
interconnecting and overlapping spheres: the organisational sphere, the curatorial sphere
and the physical sphere.
This thesis finds that, alongside the overwhelming impact of masculinity, structural
faults in the collection, caused by historic bias, have created obstacles for curators.
However, feminist art historical approaches are being implemented within the curatorial
sphere in order to attempt to fill gaps and to correct biases. Although within the
organisational sphere there is evidence of a feminist legacy, masculinity continues to
have a large impact on experiences within physical art spaces, leading to questions
about whether the actions museums are taking to diversify their collections is enough.
The thesis argues that as some gaps in collections are addressed, others are being
ignored and continue to grow. This is most evident in the case of transgender narratives.
Despite the rise in the number of women artists and/or artists of colour, these artists are
not given the same space as artists accepted within the art historical canon. This causes
a lack of equivalency of scale between artists. Additionally, there are often specific
spaces and times given to the display of marginalised artists. For example, the thesis
finds that often the interpretation of an artist’s queerness is limited to certain spaces
within the gallery, or confined to special events and displays.
Ultimately this thesis contributes to the growing field of queer feminist art histories as
well as a queer reading of museums, while also exploring transgender and gender nonconforming
narratives in art spaces.



Suzanne MacLeod; Viv Golding; Dave Unwin

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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