The Art of Empowerment
Closing the gender gap through the power of art
The Art of Empowerment is one of UN Women UK’s flagship fundraising and programmes which partners with leading women artists to create limited edition works in support of our work. These beautiful editions are created in textile and stitched fabric, to honour the timeless craft of women across cultures, and as a symbol and celebration of the work of women through the ages. Founded by Maria Baibakova – art expert, activist, and Special Adviser on Arts and Philanthropy to UN Women UK – the programme connects leading artists who identify as women and art lovers with the opportunity to create widespread change for women and girls across the world.
The programme launched in 2018 with an edition by Tschabalala Self, followed by Jadé Fadojutimi in 2019, Lakwena Maciver in 2020, and Marina Perez Simao in 2021. The works are limited editions of 30 plus 2 artist proofs and are hand made using stitching and fabric in reference to the timeless craft of women across cultures. All four previous editions have proved to be a sell-out success, generating much-needed funding for UN Women UK and its global programmes.
All funds raised from The Art of Empowerment collection go directly to UN Women UK’s Women’s Emergency Fund.
This creates the freedom and flexibility to act fast when crises such as Türkiye and Syria’s earthquakes strike, floods in Pakistan, or the humanitarian crisis in Sudan; reaching women at the moment they most need support.
The Art of Empowerment programme was founded and directed by Maria Baibakova – art expert, activist, and Special Adviser on Arts & Philanthropy to UN Women UK – and creates the space for leading women-identifying artists and art lovers to create widespread change for women and girls across the UK and around the world.
Maria Baibakova is an art focused entrepreneur and activist based in London. In 2008, Baibakova founded Baibakov Art Projects – an organisation that is committed to supporting contemporary art through innovative curatorial, philanthropic and consulting projects.
In 2018, Baibakova began her work with UN Women UK as Special Advisor for Arts and Philanthropy. Baibakova actively and enthusiastically supports women in creative industries including via her recent role as a Trustee of Barnard College for women affiliated with Columbia University in New York. At Barnard, her alma mater, Baibakova established a scholarship for students pursuing the study of art history. Additionally, she is the Founding Chair of the Artemis Council for women artists at the New Museum in New York, which, since 2015, has organised over thirty five solo shows of women artists including the first-ever comprehensive show in the US of the renowned British artist, Sarah Lucas.
This is what happens when women come together.
Each Art of Empowerment artist has a unique approach to their work. They’ll often draw inspiration from the experiences of women in our society and weave those stories into their pieces.
We’re proud to have such a strong link between women leading the way in the art world and our wider community of women leading the change towards gender equality for our society.
2023: Michaela Yearwood-Dan
‘You May Blame Aphrodite But I Can Only Blame You’ (2023) is Yearwood-Dan’s first foray into textile works.
The artist, who is known for her lush, brightly-hued paintings and ceramics, draws on a diverse range of influences throughout her practice, including Blackness, queerness, femininity, healing rituals, and carnival culture.
2022: Paulina Olowska
For International Women’s Day 2022, The Art of Empowerment commissioned Olowska to create a special edition in aid of its mission of supporting women involved in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Her realist paintings, drawings and collages borrow imagery from Eastern European and American popular culture. Creating a cross cultural reference that is evident throughout her practice.
2021: Marina Perez Simão
Rooted in the natural landscape of her native Brazil, Simão’s luminous oil paintings pulse with a magnetic, musical, and hypnotic presence that makes the viewer’s eye dance.
The proceeds from this work went to support UN Women UK’s Appeal for Afghan women and girls, amidst the drastic rollback of their human rights across the country.
2020: Lakwena Maciver
Maciver’s bold and polychromatic work is informed by the use of decoration as a means of communication.
Words and text are central to her art, used as both images and anchors of meaning – drawing upon her formative years in Addis Ababa, Nairobi, and her native city, London.
The proceeds from Maciver’s piece went to UN Women UK’s Covid response work, providing emergency humanitarian support and ongoing community resilience to women around the world.
2019: Jadé Fadojutimi
For the second year of the Art of Empowerment programme, we invited acclaimed artist Jadé Fadojutimi to create her first textile edition for us titled ‘Clustering Thoughts’.
Inspired by concepts of identity construction and the restraints placed upon us by both society and ourselves, layers of ribbon and fabric emerge to create an emotive abstraction.
2018: Tschabalala Self
In the original artwork – ‘Princess’ – created in 2017, Tschabalala Self explores the implicit politicisation and sexualisation of black bodies through a self-reflexive lens.
Self deftly negotiates a variety of materials, utilising a lively range of textures and patterns to create her central figure.
For the inaugural year of the Art of Empowerment programme, Self translated ‘Princess’ into a limited edition collection.
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UN Women UK: the only organisation working towards gender equality at all levels, in all areas of society.
Right now, we’re facing a 300-year wait for gender equality. Women’s rights are being abused, threatened, and violated around the world. Progress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes.
Here at UN Women UK, we’re combating this through collective action at all levels of society – from governments to corporates, communities to individuals. We’re here to ensure that every woman and girl has access to safety, choice and a voice. In the UK and around the world.