Nayia Yiakoumaki discusses the research and making of the exhibition Phantoms of Surrealism.

This archive show took place at Whitechapel Gallery ( 27 April – 12 December 2021). Artists presented were Elizabeth Andrews (1882–1977), Ruth Adams (1893–1948), Eileen Agar (1898–1991), Claude Cahun (1894–1954), Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988), Diana Brinton Lee (n/a–1982), Grace Pailthorpe (1883–1971), Elizabeth Raikes (1907–1942), Edith Rimmington (1902–1986), Sheila Legge (1911–1949) who exhibited at the London International Surrealist Exhibitions or with the Artists International Association. AIA was dedicated to the ‘Unity of Artists for Peace, Democracy and Cultural Development’ and staged an anti-war exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in 1939 which included a Surrealist section. Drawn from the Whitechapel Gallery archives and other national collections, including the National Galleries of Scotland, Edward James Archives and Jersey Heritage Trust, as well as private collections, photographs, documents and dazzlingly designed printed matter reveal women’s contribution to these ground-breaking shows.

Nayia Yiakoumaki is Curator and Head of Curatorial studies at Whitechapel Gallery, where she has developed an innovative programme of research exhibitions which investigate unknown histories of art and curating. Yiakoumaki runs the Whitechapel Gallery’s MA course Curating Art and Public Programmes in association with London South Bank University. From 2016-2017 she co-directed the Athens Biennale as Director of Research and International Networks. She is on the committees of the board for Wroclaw Contemporary, Poland; Women’s Art Library, UK and is a Trustee at Matt’s Gallery, UK. Yiakoumaki has curated a number of successful exhibitions including John Latham: Anarchive (2010), Rothko in Britain (2012), Stephen Willats: Concerning Our Present Way of Living (2014), Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe? (2016-2017), Staging Jackson Pollock (2018), Queer Spaces: London, 1980s – Today (2019), Exercising Freedom: Encounters with Art, Artists and Communities (2021) and Phantoms of Surrealism (2020-2021).