Can you name #5WomenArtists?
For most people, this turns out to be a real challenge. (Since we live in Wyoming, we can name five Wyoming women who are visual artists: Sue Sommers, Kathy Wipfler, Kathryn Mapes Turner, Amy Ringholz, Isabel Rucker, we could go on.)
(Also, if you don't know Agnes Martin, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Georgia O'Keefe, Frida Kahlo - of course you know Georgia and Frida - Artemesia Gentileschi, Mary Cassatt, Judy Chicago, Helen Frankenthaler, Lily Stockman, Amy Sherald, Lily Martin Spencer, the Guerrilla Girls - we could go on and on - make that your personal project for Women's History Month. Spend some time checking out the National Museum of Women in the Arts and jump on board the #5WomenArtists tag on social.)
All of that is a long way of saying, the visual arts are an interesting place to take a look at gender equality - or lack thereof. In theory, because art is subjective and does not comport itself to the rhythms of our workaday lives, there shouldn't be any real gender gap in painting, for example. The gender of the landscape painter is indistinguishable when looking at the landscape painting. (And there is nothing "typically masculine" about, say, Monet's Waterlilies.) Not to mention that research shows that they are *actually* indistinguishable - focus groups cannot read the gender of the artist by looking at the painting.
Fewer women artists have their works in museum collections. Fewer women artists are repped or promoted by galleries. Art by women fetches less at auction. Art by women is deemed "less valuable" by collectors and potential collectors. There is a substantial gender gap in the visual arts.
We spent a little time checking out what the research, data, and stats had to say on the subject:
Where Are All The Women Artists? NMWA's Latest Campaign Aims To Find The Answer According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 51% of living visual artists in the US today are women and, on average, those women earn 81 cents for every dollar made by their male contemporaries. A recent study by the Public Library of Science found that of the permanent collections of 18 prominent art museums in the US, 87% of the represented works were completed by men. Most recently, a joint study conducted in 2017, by artnet Analytics and Maastricht University in 2017 found that just 13.7% of living artists represented in galleries in Europe and North America are women.
From NPR's Steve Inskeep, "It's widely known that women are paid less than men for the same work. We can argue about why that is. But here's a question. Why would people pay less for a painting at auction just because it was painted by a woman? Shankar Vedantam, NPR's social science correspondent, has come across some research about gender bias in the art world."
Professor Roman Kräussl of the Luxembourg School of Finance, one of the study’s authors, said, “Male buyers are a driving force of the auction market and yet we see that they are also more likely to think that women’s art is inferior. Our research adds to the mounting evidence of discrimination towards women that is systemic to so many industries.”
In the secondary art market, artists play no active role. This allows researchers to isolate cultural influences on the demand for female artists’ work from supply-side factors. Using 1.5 million auction transactions in 45 countries, they document a 47.6% gender discount in auction prices for paintings. The discount is higher in countries with greater gender inequality. In experiments, participants are unable to guess the gender of an artist simply by looking at a painting and they vary in their preferences for paintings associated with female artists. According to the research: Women's art appears to sell for less because it is made by women.
On January 30, 2019, Sotheby’s unveiled an exhibit titled “The Female Triumphant” in New York as a part of the auction house’s Master Paintings evening sale during its Masters Week. The gallery featured 21 works—including paintings, drawings and sculptures—made by 14 prominent European female artists who lived between the 16th to 19th centuries. Calvine Harvey, a specialist in Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings department, noted that the gender incongruity exists in the auction house’s own showrooms: “In 2018 alone, Sotheby’s sold only 14 works by female Old Masters—compared to 1,100 [works by] male artists,” she said in a press release.
Micol Hebron began counting the numbers of male and female artists on the rosters of Los Angeles galleries, and here's what she found: "I began tallying as a way to start to visualize and concretize the biases. I began counting the number of full-page Artforum ads for individual artists, counting the number of ads for women artists versus the number of ads for male artists. On average, the amount of ads for male artists was consistently 70% or higher."
A report by the Katarzyna Kozyra Foundation, a Warsaw-based initiative devoted to supporting the work of young female artists, investigates a stark disparity in Poland’s art academies: women constitute 77% of students but only 22% of professors. Though the study only reflects the state of art education in one country, it offers insights into “factors undermining women’s careers in visual art academies,” as the researchers write — factors that art educators everywhere in the world might want to consider.