The Sexist Art World in 2009 – artmarketblog.com

The Sexist Art World in 2009 – artmarketblog.com

ONE OF SIX POSTERS BY THE GUERRILLA GIRLS IN THE BIENNALE EXHIBITION "ALWAYS A LITTLE FURTHER," CURATED BY ROSA MARTINEZ

ONE OF SIX POSTERS BY THE GUERRILLA GIRLS IN THE BIENNALE EXHIBITION "ALWAYS A LITTLE FURTHER," CURATED BY ROSA MARTINEZ

In 1989 a group of anonymous feminist art world activists, who called themselves the Guerrilla Girls, created a poster that asked the question “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”. Below this question it was stated that “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female”. Unfortunately, since 1989 things have not improved much at all. This poster was re-created by the Guerilla Girls for the 2005 Venice Biennale with the same image but different text. The 2005 Venice Biennale poster read “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” then below was “Less than 3% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 83% of the nudes are female”. See the difference?. Yes, the number of female artists in the Modern Art sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art had actually reduced in the 15 years between the original poster, and the re-assessment of the collection conducted by the Guerrilla Girls in the fall of 2004. Not only had the percentage of works by women artists gone down but the percentage of nudes that are of females went down as well. This means that there are now more male nudes than there were which I am not sure whether to be pleased about or not.

It is quite obvious that we have a long way to go. Consider the fact that up until 1986 H.W. Janson’s famous ‘History of Art’ textbook did not include any female artists. When questioned in 1979 about the lack of female artists in his textbook, Janson said that he couldn’t find a female artist who he thought belonged in a one volume book on the history of art. As a comparison I looked through the textbook that I was required to use when I completed by Bachelor of Arts (Art History and Criticism) degree from 2001-2003. My copy of E.H.Gombrich’s ‘The Story of Art’ was printed in 1995 and has a sticker on the front of it that states that over 6,000,000 copies of the book have sold which makes it “The World’s Best Selling Art Book”. Okay, so how does the world’s best selling art book rate when it comes to recognising female artists?. I would love to be able to say that it rates well but not surprisingly it rates extremely poorly. Out of all the images in the book there was only one I could find that was by a women artists – an image of a lithograph titled ‘Need’ by Kathe Kollwitz. I haven’t had a chance to re-read the whole book to see how many female artists are featured in the book but at the present time it seems that Kathe Kollwitz is the only one.

What about the commercial sector?. Brainstormers, A New York Based art collective that aims to highlight the gross gender inequities in the contemporary New York Art, has a website called the Brain Stormers Report which provides information relating to their cause. One section of the website titled “Top 30 Offenders 2008” has screen shots of the websites of the 30 NY commercial galleries that have the lowest percentage of female artists as of May 2008. You can take a look at the rather disappointing stats here:

http://www.brainstormersreport.net/Top30Offenders2008.html

It would be unfair to suggest that there hasn’t been any progress on the issue of gender inequality in the art world because there has. There are many museums that have increased the number of works by female artists in their collections such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris. In fact, the Pompidou Centre is currently holding a year long exhibition of works by 200 female artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. According to the director of the centre’s modern art collections, no museum has ever done this before – a fact that is disturbing to say the least. Also hopping on the female artist bandwagon is the UK’s Walker Art Gallery which is holding an exhibition titled “The Rise of Women Artists – From 16th century to present day” from the 23 October 2009 to 14 March 2010. According to the press release for the exhibition: “The exhibition traces the historical changes affecting women, looking at their status and careers as they moved to assert themselves as artists in their own right”.

Although there are institutions that do deserve to be recognised for at least making some effort to correct the imbalance, the overall rate of progress has been abysmal to say the least especially when it comes to the cultural sector. I have plenty more to say on this issue to stay tuned.

To be continued…………

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

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Investing in Female Artists Pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

Investing in Female Artists Pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

frida kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Two female artists whose work I really love are Lee Krasner and Dora Maar. What is interesting about both these artists is that they were romantically involved with very famous male artists – Dora Maar with Picasso and Lee Krasner with Jackson Pollock. There is no doubt that the early progression of the careers of both these artists was aided by their association with a famous male artist, but did it prove to be a positive move for their career in the long run?. Although their early careers benefited from their relationships with famous male artists, it now seems that both artists are unable to disassociate themselves from these relationships, and are destined to remain in the shadow of their partners forever. Instead of being known as individual artists of great talent, their relationships have basically ended up defining their place in art history. It is impossible to know whether the careers of either Maar or Krasner would have progressed as far as they did without help from their famous lovers but what I am sure of is that their romantic affiliations are currently hindering the progression of their status in the art world. For Krasner and Maar it seems as though it really was a case of you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

One of the only cases where a famous female artist in a relationship with a famous male artist has ended up achieving higher prices than their male partner is the case of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The auction record for a work by Kahlo is US$5.6-million, which was achieved by “Roots” in 2006, whereas the auction record for a work by Rivera is US$3.08-million, which was achieved by “Baile en Tehuantepec” in 1995. It was not until after her death that Frieda Kahlo began to be known as an independent artist and not just as the wife of Diego Rivera. Prior to her death, and for several decades after her death, Kahlo was as much in the shadow of her male partner as Maar and Krasner were. Various events in the 1980’s were responsible for Kahlo’s work beginning to receive the recognition and attention that it deserved. The progress of Kahlo’s status has continued to the point where she has actually surpassed the status of her male partner. Some of the recognition for the high prices paid for Kahlo’s work does, however, have to be given to the fact that a very small number of works by Kahlo have ever appeared on the market.

As the above cases show the problem of gender imbalance in the art world is more complicated than it may seem, and the solution more difficult to determine. Progress is being made but not at any where near the pace that it should be.

To be continued………….

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

Investing in Female Artists Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

Investing in Female Artists Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

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 http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

Investing in Female Artists Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

Investing in Female Artists Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

femaleAs a consultant and adviser to art investors I am often required to take on the role of a sort of art market futurist and make predictions regarding future trends and identify the artists/movements/genres etc. that have the greatest investment potential. There is one prediction that I have made that I would like to share with everyone because it relates to a particularly important and relevant issue that has been the subject of much debate over the last few years. It is no secret that the work of female artists sell for much less than their male counterparts and it is no secret that one of the reasons for this is the lack of recognition of the achievements of female artists by the cultural sector (scholars, museums, public galleries etc.). Interest in the work of female artists is, however, on the increase as the cultural sector begins to recognise the work of female artists from as early as the 16th century. I believe that the work of female artists is seriously under-rated and under-valued and that the value of the work of histories finest female artists will continue to rise in value in conjunction with the increased pressure put on the cultural sector to give female artists the attention and recognition they deserve.

Jerry Saltz recently re-ignited the debate over the status of female artists in relation to their male counterparts when he posted the details on his facebook profile of a meeting he had with a MoMA’s Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture regarding the lack of works by women artists displayed at the MoMA. This was not the first time that Saltz had weighed in on the recognition of female artists debate. In 2007, Saltz wrote an article for the New York Magazine called ‘Where Are All the Women: On MoMA’s Identify Politics’ in which he criticised the MoMA for what he described as the exclusion of “women from the display of its permanent collection of painting and sculpture from 1879 to 1969”. Saltz’s facebook post suggests that not much has changed since the article he wrote more than 18 months ago.

In July 2008 an article by Andrew Johnson appeared in the English newspaper The Independent titled ‘There’s never been a great woman artist’ which looks at the dollar value put on the work of female artists compared to the work of their male counterparts. Johnson’s article provides two different points of view relating to the price discrepancy between male and female artists. The first point of view is that the art market is sexist and that female artists are not given the recognition they deserve compared to their male counterparts. Art critic Brian Sewell provides the alternative point of view which is that there has never been a first-rank women artist, only second and third rank. I personally find Sewell’s point of view completely ridiculous and totally unjustified. It may seem that there have never been any first-rank women artists but that is only because the art market and the cultural sector are sexist. Those women artists who are worthy of being considered “first-rank” have not been given the recognition and attention that would elevate them to the status of “first rank”.

Do you believe that there has been a “first rank” female artist?

To be continued……..

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