Where are all the great women artists? The gender gap in the industry may have reduced in size over the years, but as ARTnews’s June 2015 issue points out, there’s still rampant sexism in the art world.
Curator Maura Reilly begins by breaking it down numerically and structurally in her article “TAKING THE MEASURE OF SEXISM: FACTS, FIGURES, AND FIXES”, from the amount of press women artists get to museum representation statistics. For example, since 2007 only 29% of solo shows at the Whitney Museum went to women. She continues,
It’s not looking much better at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2004, when the museum opened its new building, with a reinstallation of the permanent collection spanning the years 1880 to 1970, of the 410 works on display in the fourth- and fifth-floor galleries, only 16 were by women. That’s 4 percent. Even fewer works were by artists of color. At my most recent count, in April 2015, 7 percent of the works on display were by women.
Feminist collective The Guerrilla Girls’ “Report Card” from 1986 takes galleries to task over how many women they represented. Pussy Galore’s 2015 version show how much (and how little) has changed in 29 years.
©1986 GUERRILLA GIRLS; ©2015 PUSSY GALORE
Theorist Amelia Jones argues that women (as well as artists of color and queer artists) are allowed into the hegemony of the art world so long as they ape the identities and roles of straight white male artists; the purported archetype of the “artist genius”. It may behoove those on the fringes to eschew this institutional authority and develop spaces outside to foster a new kind of art world. Jones says,
While not disregarding the potential importance of large museum exhibitions and programming in foregrounding feminist goals, artists, and movements, I find […] more modest venues more creatively vital at this moment for achieving feminist goals.
She cites the Blk Grrrl Book Fair, an LA-based event this past March which combined artworks, poetry, performance and more from anti-racist, radical feminists, as “the art world I want.”
Linda Nochlin, in many regards the progenitor of the feminist art movement, spoke with Maura Reilly for the issue, touching on everything from her hatred of Tinker Bell to the landscape of feminism in the arts today:
It is undeniable that both institutions and education have changed a great deal. M.F.A. programs are now comprised of 60 percent women students. There are courses on women artists, feminism and art, contemporary women artists, etc., at major institutions of learning. This would have been unheard of in my day.
Check out all of the art world feminist goodness in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews.