Erasing The Gender Gap in The Art World One Gallery at A Time
By now, it’s no shock when we hear that female artists are underrepresented in the art industry. Think about it, whenever you hear the word “artist”, what names come to mind? Even to me, as a woman, I think of Picasso, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci. I need to take a minute and try to think of female artists and honestly, I can’t think of any. The reason for this is simple: the underrepresentation of female artists throughout history. It’s true that women have brought about significant changes for themselves in many aspects. But even with these changes, female artists are still seen as less-than and undervalued in comparison to their male counterparts.
While the perception that female artists have been gaining significant recognition and praise has been dominant in the industry thanks to more of their work being featured in solo shows and women-themed exhibitions, the actual numbers prove otherwise. Data by Artnet has shown that between 2008 and 2018, only 11% of art acquired by the United States’ top museums for permanent collections was by women. “The perception of change was more than the reality.” – Julia Halperin, executive editor of Artnet News. Not only is there a disparity in representation, but female artists’ work is sold for less – there is a 47.6% discount for women’s art at auctions, based on a paper titled “Is Gender in the Eye of the Beholder? Identifying Cultural Attitudes with Art Auction Prices”.
The inequality between male and female artists in the art world is a direct result of the inequality between men and women in society throughout history because women weren’t allowed to carry out artistic professions and training until the 1870’s. However, why this inequality is still apparent today is more difficult to explain. Artnet conducted a survey in 2014 where they asked 20 of the most powerful women in the art world if they felt that the industry was biased and every single one of them answered “yes”. “Several were museum directors who argued that the senior management, predominantly male, had a stranglehold on the institutions, often preventing them from instituting substantive change” – Maura Reilly, ARTnews.