KENNEDY · REAGAN · CLINTON · OBAMA
October 12, 2018 – January 27, 2019
She has power. She has influence. Yet, there are boundaries to the scope of her actions: The First Lady of the United States. It is an office that formally does not exist. The US Constitution makes no references to the rights and duties of the First Lady, and a remuneration/ salary for the office is also not outlined. However, demands for the First Lady of the nation are enormous: She is expected to lead a family, to support her husband in his presidential campaign, to appear as a confident hostess and representative, and to also initiate her own political initiatives.
With over 70 photographs by renowned artists such as Steve Schapiro, Elliott Erwitt, Mark Shaw, Martin Schoeller and Pete Souza, the exhibition »Leading Ladies« aims to take a closer look at this central player. The exhibition focuses on four former First Ladies of the United States: Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. All four women have interpreted the office differently and enriched it with their own accents — defining the way we perceive the office of the First Lady today:
Jacqueline Kennedy: as a trailblazer she set the standard that her successors are compared with up to this day
Nancy Reagan: as a moral authority of the nation she skillfully used her influence to contribute to the conservative reorganization of society
Hillary Clinton: like no First Lady before her, the »Co-President« entered the picture/ appeared as a political player
Michelle Obama: the »Mom in Chief« unified the versatility of the position by appearing as a mother, campaigner and initiator of social programs
Thus, the exhibition also poses further questions regarding women’s roles in society as the public image of the First Lady has always been a balancing act between the traditional role of the wife and mother and the image of the emancipated political agent who follows her own ambitions. This enthralling ambivalence is addressed in the four aspects that structure the exhibition: companion, ambassador/ representative, campaigner and political player.
By taking a tour through »Leading Ladies« visitors gain new insights and perspectives on fundamental developments in the history of politics and gender.