why are female artists still fighting to get solo shows?

In the US and the UK, the art world systematically overlooks women artists.

by Blair Cannon
02 May 2016, 7:25pm

New research from the Freelands Foundation shows that female artists are still consistently booking fewer shows in major museums than their male counterparts, The Art Newspaper reports. In fact, the numbers are pretty damning: only 27% of the 590 solo shows that took place at major American art institutions between 2007 and 2013 were devoted to women. And in London, only 25% of prestigious shows in 2014 and 2015 belonged to female artists. However, this information comes at a good time, when the gender imbalances in the art world are finally starting to turn around. With the appointment of Frances Morris as the newest director of London's Tate Modern in January, and the launch of a £10,000 prize for mid-career female artists from Tate trustee Elizabeth Murdoch last month, the issue is garnering more attention. Morris says of her plans for the Tate Modern: "Women will be very strongly present" in order "to show the real history of art and the contribution made by women who have been overlooked." On Wednesday, the museum will open a collection of Mona Hatoum's work, followed by a Georgia O'Keefe show in July.

One solution comes from donors — the newest generation of which likes to be thought of as "activist patrons" — who can financially favor overlooked female artists. Murdoch's prize is only one among the New Museum's Artemis fund, the Valeria Napoleone XX project (named after the collector and the female chromosome), and others that attempt to bring more work created by women into major institutions. But some curators are quick to point out that funding is not the ultimate solution, and that there is a much deeper cultural issue at hand. Many artists and curators bemoan the simple lack of respect for female-created work, shown in the distinct price ratio between women's and men's art: 79 cents to a dollar. The real solution, it seems, is simply to have more female museum staff, especially high-power curators, choosing women over men 50% of the time. Helen Molesworth, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA says, "The only way you get diversity is to actually do it," reminding us that there are only so many museum shows in a year and "if you are going to be equitable, then some of the dudes don't get shows that year." Fair is fair if you are curating based on talent.


Text Blair Cannon
Image via Twitter

Female Artists
Tate Modern
women in art