feminist art group guerrilla girls is taking on european museums’ diversity record

The gorilla suit-wearing artists asked 383 European museum directors to answer to a survey about artist diversity in their institution; only 1/4 responded. The results are now on show at the Whitechapel Gallery.

by Charlotte Gush
30 September 2016, 4:20pm

"Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?" This was the question posed by the anonymous feminist art group Guerrilla Girls in 1989 on a signature graphic poster. The posted also stated that at the time, "Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female." The artists' campaign had started after a 1984 survey revealed that less that 10% of the artists in the Met were women; a year later, the collective produced another poster that simply stated in block capitals, "It's even worse in Europe."

For a new show opening at the Whitechapel Gallery in London on Saturday, October 1 — dubbed Is it even worse in Europe? — the group of female artists sent surveys to 383 European museum directors asking them about the diversity of the artists in their collections. Only a quarter of them responded.

The responses from directors who answered the 14 questions — which related to "the number of artists in recent exhibitions who are female, gender non conforming or from Africa, Asia, South Asia, and South America" — as well as information about non-responders, are displayed on the walls of the free exhibition, beginning tomorrow.

"With this project, we wanted to pose the question 'Are museums today presenting a diverse history of contemporary art or the history of money and power?'," the Guerrilla Girls say in a statement. "We focus on the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair. Art can't be reduced to the small number of artists who have won a popularity contest among bigtime dealers, curators, and collectors," they continue, adding that, "Unless museums and Kunsthallen show art as diverse as the cultures they claim to represent, they're not showing the history of art, they're just preserving the history of wealth and power."

An artist talk by the Guerilla Girls on the opening day, Saturday, October 1, at 3pm GMT has sold out, but it will be live-streamed on the Whitechapel Gallery Facebook page. 

Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe? is on view at the Whitechapel Gallery, October 1, 2016 -  March 5, 2017.


Text Charlotte Gush
Image courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery

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