Investing in Female Artists Pt. 2 –

Investing in Female Artists Pt. 2 –

Marlene Dumas’s "The Visitor" (1995)

Marlene Dumas’s "The Visitor" (1995)

Judging by the response to my previous post on the lack of recognition given to female artists and the consequent discrepancy in price between female artists and their male counterparts, there are plenty of people who have strong opinions on this subject. Because of the lively debate that my last post encouraged I am going to extend this series of posts beyond what I had originally planned.

Although the status of the work of female artists may seem like a simple case of discrimination, in reality, the problem is much more complicated. Before I begin looking at the more complex issues behind the problems facing female artists, I thought it would be interesting to look at some facts and statistics so that the discrepancies can be put into perspective. In November 2007, the New York Magazine did some calculations and published some rather revealing figures relating to the number of female artists represented at several major art institutions. At the time, only 15% of the artists whose work was on show as part of the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art were female. The 2007 Venice Biennale could only manage a 76% male/24 % female split while Art Basel Miami Beach managed slightly better with a 73% male/27% female split. Worst of all was the Frick Collection which had a collection that was a mere 1% female artists.

The prices paid for works by female artists compared to the prices paid for works by male artists tell pretty much the same story as the above figures for the number of women represented at major art institutions. Compared with the $104 million paid for Picasso’s ‘Garçon à la pipe’, the highest price paid for a work of art at auction, the $10,870,506 auction record for a work by a female artist, which is held by Natalia Goncharova’s ‘Les Fleurs’, is tiny. The most expensive living artist at auction is once again a male with Lucien Freud’s infamous ‘Big Sue’ taking the honours with a $33.6m price tag. Comparatively, the most expensive living female artist is Marlene Dumas whose painting ‘The Visitor’ sold for 6.4 million at Christie’s in September 2008 – more than five times less than the record for the most expensive work by a male artist at auction.

Hopefully these statistics put the issue of the discrepancies between male and female artists into perspective. To be continued………..

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

10 Responses

  1. Are we not succumbing to the fallacy of Jewish Physics versus German Physics? Is there not a measure of art other then of the artists?

  2. This time I disagree – Americans have a tendency to think the market (by the way, any market) is limited to them… Think Latin America: the MOST expensive artists are (and traditionnally were, at least in Brazil) female! Out of the top of my head: Beatriz Milhazes, Tarsila do Amaral (since the 1920s!), Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, in Mexico we have Frida, of course…and if you leave for Europe in Portugal the MOST expensive artists are once again: Vieira da Silva, Lurdes Castro, etc… not my fault the US only discovered women in the 1990s, but it does NOT reflect a global discrimination.

  3. I think Nicholas is right and his researches – unfortunately – are true. I, as a female artist and web designer not so long ago was also told that ‘female artists’ did not really exist…To measure art only by one’s work would be fair, but in reality the situation is not so easy. Some people think differently already, but I still encounter many “old styled” men at art galleries or even among my web design customers…

  4. When I paint I’m niether a man nor a woman.

  5. […] [From Investing in Female Artists Pt. 2 – « Art Market Blog with Nicholas Forrest http://www…] […]

  6. What is missing, I think, from the stats that are being used, is the period of Art History when these artists came to the fore…I don’t think that a master painter and a Picasso or a Goya and a Dumas should be compared. Art is Timely and Timless…This is the 21st Century and at least women art buyers are buying women artists…check out @

  7. I am so impressed that you decided to write about this topic, It is my understanding that only 5% of art on display by museums (an average) in the United States is work created by women artists. When I studied art at that bastion of progressive thinking, namely UC Berkeley, there were NO FEMALE ARTISTS AT ALL included in the primary text for my Art History class; namely THE HISTORY OF ART by Jansen. Yes, people do need to become more aware. Glad you are raising awareness…

  8. We at Twolia totally agree with your statement regarding recognition for female artists. The exact reason why we creation Twolia – to help showcase female artists and entrepreneurs. A voice, a platform, a place to call their own. There is extreme talent out there…and writers like you are helping them out. Thanks!

  9. Currently women have one opportunity to every 4 offered to men, this statistic also holds true for monographic publications. There is a book called After the Revolution – Women who transformed Contemporary Art. It has some graphs which clearly clearly show the number and percentage of solo exhibitions at museums by gender, and the number and percentage of monographic publications by gender. It shows also that during the womens movement in the 70’s women started to do much better, however since the 1990’s they have reached a plateau. The past isn’t dead and buried in fact it isn’t even past. Equality of opportunity across gender, race and class remains an elusive goal.

  10. the statistics of the percentage of male to female patrons/collectors/investors…. directors of museums/galleries/etc. are VERY relevant to this discussion.

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