Behind the Scenes of Collector Komal Shah’s Book Launch Honoring Women Artists

A red dot sticker at an art fair means an artwork has been sold. At a book launch party at the Bowery Terrace on Thursday night, an orange dot meant you were an artist. And not just any artist—an artist who appears in a new book, Making Their Mark, devoted to women artists in the collection of Komal Shah, who has ranked on the ARTnews Top 200 since 2018. And there were a lot of orange dots—some 40 of them.Over the past 10 years, Shah, an SFMOMA board member, has built up a formidable collection with her husband, Gaurav Garg, with a focus on women artists whose work have only recently—and very belatedly—come to the art world’s attention. On hand to celebrate the new book—which will eventually become an exhibition, curated by last year’s Venice Biennale artistic director Cecilia Alemani—were living legends like Joan Semmel, Kay WalkingStick, Elaine Reichek, Candida Alvarez, Lorna Simpson, Jacqueline Humphries, Joan Snyder, and Suzanne Jackson. There were also representatives of artists’ estates, like that of Elizabeth Murray, of whom Shah said in remarks to her assembled guests, “What a huge influence Elizabeth Murray has had, and no wonder she is on the cover of our book.”

Shah added of the women artists, “It’s been a tough journey for them and they have persevered societal bias, slow recognition. There is so much power and so much magic in this room.” Not just magic, but luck: Shah had the artists wear those orange dot stickers (orange and blue is the book’s color scheme) so that everyone at the party would know exactly who were the stars of the show. “No one will wear orange,” she told me at Frieze New York, the day before the event. And, amazingly, no one did.

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