Action, Gesture, Paint

Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940–70

  • WKC_1006_300dpi copy

    Wook-kyung Choi, Untitled (detail), 1960s Acrylic on canvas, 101 x 86 cm © Wook-kyung Choi Estate and courtesy to Arte Collectum.

Past Exhibition

Access Information

Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70

9 February – 7 May 2023

★★★★ A ‘kaleidoscopically varied exhibition’The Telegraph 
★★★★  ‘You can’t have too much of a good thing, and this show is full of good things’ –  Time Out
Bursting with feeling…‘ – Financial Times

Whitechapel Gallery presents a major exhibition of 150 paintings from an overlooked generation of 81 international women artists.

Reaching beyond the predominantly white, male painters whose names are synonymous with the Abstract Expressionist movement, this exhibition celebrates the practices of the numerous international women artists working with gestural abstraction in the aftermath of the Second World War.

It is often said that the Abstract Expressionist movement began in the USA, but this exhibition’s geographic breadth demonstrates that artists from all over the world were exploring similar themes of materiality, freedom of expression, perception and gesture, endowing gestural abstraction with their own specific cultural contexts – from the rise of fascism in parts of South America and East Asia to the influence of Communism in Eastern Europe and China.

The exhibition features well-known artists associated with the Abstract Expressionism movement, including American artists Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), alongside lesser-known figures such as Mozambican-Italian artist Bertina Lopes (1924-2012) and South Korean artist Wook-kyung Choi (1940-1985). More than half of the works have never before been on public display in the UK.

Artists from A-Z

Mary Abbott, Etel Adnan, Maliheh Afnan, Ruth Armer, Gillian Ayres, Ida Barbarigo, Noemí Di Benedetto, Anna-Eva Bergman, Janice Biala, Bernice Bing, Sandra Blow, Dusti Bongé, Chinyee, Wook-kyung Choi, Jay DeFeo, Martha Edelheit, Amaranth Ehrenhalt, Asma Fayoumi, Lilly Fenichel, Perle Fine, Else Fischer-Hansen, Audrey Flack, Elna Fonnesbech-Sandberg, Juana Francés, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Gloria Gómez-Sánchez, Elsa Gramcko, Sarah Grilo, Grace Hartigan, Lilian Holt, Buffie Johnson, Yuki Katsura, Helen Khal, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Bice Lazzari, Lifang, Bertina Lopes, Margaret Mellis, Marta Minujín, Joan Mitchell, Aiko Miyawaki, Yolanda Mohalyi, Nasreen Mohamedi, Emiko Nakano, Lea Nikel, Tomie Ohtake, Fayga Ostrower, Mercedes Pardo, Charlotte Park, Betty Parsons, Pat Passlof, Alice Rahon, Carol Rama, Marie Raymond, Judit Reigl, Deborah Remington, Britta Ringvall, Erna Rosenstein, Behjat Sadr, Nadia Saikali, Zilia Sánchez, Fanny Sanín, Miriam Schapiro, Sarah Schumann, Ethel Schwabacher, Sonja Sekula, Toko Shinoda, Sylvia Snowden, Janet Sobel, Vivian Springford, Franciszka Themerson, Alma Thomas, Yvonne Thomas, Hedwig Thun, Nína Tryggvadóttir, Elsa Vaudrey, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Michael West

Action, Gesture, Paint and Lunch at Townsend

Make the most of your trip to Whitechapel Gallery this spring with a two course seasonal set menu lunch in Townsend to accompany your visit to the Action, Gesture, Paint exhibition.

The exhibition and lunch package is available Tuesday – Saturday with exhibition entry between 11am – 2pm and lunch served in the restaurant between 12 – 3pm. The package is £35 per person including exhibition entry and the two course set menu lunch.

Book your exhibition entry slot here and follow the steps in your confirmation email to reserve your table for lunch online in advance. We recommend 1-1.5 hours to visit the exhibition.

Package includes two courses from the set lunch menu available on the day of your booking, additional courses and drinks can be ordered and will be charged separately. Please note, a discretionary service charge of 12.5% will be added to your final bill, all service charges are passed on to the staff.

Gallery Quiet Hours

Join us on 19 April from 1000-1300 as we invite you to enjoy a quieter, more relaxed Gallery visit.

All are welcome during our quiet hours, though this time is especially ideal for those who enjoy a quieter and less busy environment. 

All the usual exhibits will be available, just with reduced sound and capacity, as well as more places to rest. 

There will be three quiet spaces set aside; in the Study Studio, Creative Studio and in Gallery 3. These spaces will be quiet, have a range of seating, and are ideal for resting. 

There is a limited range of noise-cancelling headphones and fidget toys which you are welcome to use too. Please speak with any member of the Visitor Services Team. 

We have reduced the available tickets during this session so these spaces are not as busy. Normal admission tickets apply during our quiet hours, and accompanying carers are always free. 

Tickets are available here.

£5 Tickets for Students
Thursday Lates
£1 Tickets for Tower Hamlets Idea Store Members
Tuesdays and Thursday Lates


Associated Events


Generously supported by:

The Christian Levett CollectionBe FlaneurAlison Bradley ProjectsAtelier EllisHelen Frankenthaler FoundationSoo & Jonathan HitchinMinistry of Culture, TaiwanGaleria Nara RoeslerRichard Saltoun Gallery 

With special thanks to:

Embassy of Italy in London