Museum Founder, Feminist, Artist: Who is Marianne Pitzen?

Portrait by Dennis Divinagracia/ Text by Corinna Heumann

Marianne Pitzen, born in Stuttgart in 1948, exhibits her works publicly for the first time as early as 1969. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband, Horst Pitzen, found the art gallery ‘Circulus’ in Bonn. At the same time, the artist couple publishes the art magazine ‘Circular’. From the concepts of the feminist artists’ group ‘Frauen formen ihre Stadt’ (Women Form their Town), which she largely shapes, the plan to establish a museum for women evolves – an interdisciplinary museum focusing on researching the history of women, their influence and their creative potential.

Utopian Ideas are Transformed into Palpable Policies

In her visionary ways she combines artistic creative power with political commitment. What drives her? “The importance of art made by women for individual and social processes cannot be surpassed by anything,” she states. Marianne Pitzen fights for a more just society. The consistent enforcement of women’s rights and their firm anchoring in all socio-political decision-making processes are indispensable for this.

So – out of the aesthetic ivory tower and into action – with an astute spirit of research Marianne Pitzen traces the depths of the structural discrimination of women in terms of content and media. Only by mobilizing the potential of the entire population the complexity of the world can be grasped. Only in this way pressing issues can be addressed. To draw attention to her theses and give them meaning, she founds the world’s first women‘s museum.

Vision of a Women-Friendly Society

The vision of a women-friendly society is the impetus and goal of her utopian perception. Marianne Pitzen creates women’s groups as symbols of female sovereignty, cosmic wisdom and harmony. These virtues have been handed down for many centuries in the history of art and culture. In all epochs they have been sources of inspiration for artists. Right up to the present day, they are constantly being rethought and expanded to include new aesthetic perspectives. Historical matriarchies and matron cults are now firmly established as subjects of scientific research. However, these fundamental female contributions to our Western cultural history have only been discovered and made known in the last 50 years by the feminist movement.

‘City of Women’ in 1405

Already in the late Middle Ages, the lyricist, moralist and pedagogue, Christine de Pizan (*1364 in Venice) questions the God-given order that assigns inferior and servile roles to women and girls: “If it is customary to put little girls to school, and if it is customary to teach them science, as we teach little boys, let them also learn perfectly and hear the subtleties of all the arts and sciences, as they (the boys) do. ” (” Si la coustume estoit de mettre les petites filles a l’escole, et que communément on les fist apprendre les sciences comme on fait aux filz, qu’elles apprendroient aussi parfaitement et entenderoient les subtilités de toutes les arz et sciences comme ils font. »)

A Woman Triggers the First Documented Literary Controversy in Paris

With her novel, ‘The City of Women’ ( ‘Le Livre de la Cité des dames’) as a response to the misogynistic image of women of her time, Christine de Pizan triggers the first historically documented literary controversy. Thereafter, her writings receive little attention outside of France until the 20th century. It is not until Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 essay, ‘Le Deuxième Sexe’ (‘The Second Sex’), that she secures new fame in the United States and Germany. In it, Simone de Beauvoir notes of Christine de Pizan’s remarkable career through her polemics with Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung (‘Le Roman de la Rose’): “For the first time we see a woman taking up the pen to defend her gender.”

Marianne Pitzen Founds the First Women’s Museum in 1981

In 1981, in order to defend her gender, to ensure women equal socio-political participation, Marianne Pitzen founds the first women’s museum in the world. In accordance with the original meaning of the term ‘museion’, the seat of the Muses, the guardians of the cosmic order, the goddesses of the arts and sciences, it is a museum of the present times. Current art, life and political experiences are negotiated, made intellectually and emotionally tangible for society – instead of being embalmed. Women’s history, obscured for centuries, is brought to life, researched and presented in a contemporary way.

International Impact

This innovative concept quickly leads to the founding of women’s museums all over the world. Today, the IAWM (International Association of Women’s Museums), with over 60 museums, is a unique network for exploring the diverse history of women. Each new foundation develops individually coordinated thematic focuses in order to include the historical and culturally specific aspects of the various locally shaped social processes in research on women’s history.


The founding of the first women’s museum is certainly no coincidence, but the result of an ever more differentiated art and political scene in the no longer young Federal Republic of Germany. With the growing internationalization of culture and economy, which is already in full swing at the beginning of the 1980s, feminist impulses from Paris and New York also take root in the provinces of the Rhineland. At the Düsseldorf Art Academy, in the Cologne art market and in the Bonn Republic, the socio-political role of women and the question of a ‘female aesthetic’ are renegotiated.

Contemporary Witness and Companion

With her exuberant idealism, a keen sense of diplomacy and humor, the founder’s work and the concept of the Women’s Museum have consistently documented Marianne Pitzen‘s idea of a just society, its advances and regressions, for four decades. Fellow campaigners from the wild years of the women’s liberation movement are now shaping our republic in leadership positions. Marianne Pitzen puts Joseph Beuys’ art-theoretical approach into practice: the concept of Social Sculpture, which aims to use the artistic gaze to help shape social progress.

Erweiterter Kunstbegriff (expanded concept of art)

Based on an expanded concept of art, actions and discussions with influential female politicians  as well as exhibitions about their careers are part of the museum’s work. With each generation, socio-political identity formation begins anew. As a guardian of women’s political progress, Marianne Pitzen today advocates for women’s digital rights. In 2022, the exhibition “Digitopia” will present the figurative female cosmos of a ‚City of Women‘ in the digital age.


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