Just when you think it can’t get any worse…..

It’s worse than I thought, and I thought it was awful.  (See my brief post from 2016 here.)  According to a report  published on artnet News….just 11% of all museum acquisitions over the past decade have been of work by women.  Yes, you have (unfortunately) read that correctly.  (No typo:  eleven.)  To add insult to injury ….the number of works by women acquired  did not increase over time.  In fact, it peaked a decade ago.

Go ahead.  Take a moment to let that sink in.

Julia Halperin and Charlotte Burns’ report is worth reading.  It’s a nuanced examination of the reasons why there hasn’t been any progress in gender parity in museum collections.  It’s based on research by Julia Vennitti and part of ongoing research into the presence of female artists’ work in museums and the art market in the past decade.

Perhaps one of the most important observations is expressed by Helen Molesworth, former chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.  The art world is simply not the liberal progressive bastion it imagines itself to be and you can’t solve a problem if you don’t own it.  

It’s true.  I had thought we were making some progress, albeit glacial,  in this area, didn’t you?   But as the report says ….perhaps one of the key takeaways is that the stories we tell ourselves – about our museums and our societies – are not to be trusted.

Sigh.  Just like almost every other issue, we need to dig deeper to discover the reality.

I’ll leave you with some images from the Hilma af Klint show, which I saw at the Guggenheim, NYC, in December 2018. The research indicates that this show …drew the youngest audience of any exhibition since the museum started to measure visitor demographics and drove a 34 percent increase in membership.

Seems like showing work from interesting female artists is a recipe for success and longevity.

Hilma af Klint, Guggenheim Museum, December 2019

Hilma af Klint, Guggenheim Museum, December 2019

Hilma af Klint, Group IX/SUW, The Swan No.13, 1915

Hilma af Klint, Group IX/SUW, The Swan No.13, 1915

Thanks to @artgirlrising for bringing the research article to my attention.






5 thoughts on “Just when you think it can’t get any worse…..

  1. elainefroese

    interesting research. Just got home from my trip to Lloyminster, Charlottetown, Montreal, Toronto, Red Deer and Lethbridge and Calgary. Next week’s gig in Moncton will likely be cancelled tommorrow. It’s like a virus blizzard. Good reason to stay home. How are you doing? Elaine Elaine Froese CSP, CAFA, CHICoach Empower Family. Increase Profit. Secure Legacy.

    t. 204-534-7466 o. 1-866-848-8311 e. elaine@elainefroese.com w. http://www.elainefroese.com a. Box 957, Boissevain MB, R0K 0E0 Skype. elaine.froese

    2018 Wilson Loree Award for Development of Excellence in Farm Management 2018 Most Distinguished Alumna 4-H Canada


  2. Diane McGifford

    Unfortunately I am not surprised. I think women in many spheres are losing ground. Think, for example, of Elizabeth Warren. I do note that female literary artists seem to be doing rather well when it comes to recognition, be it in sales or literary prizes. Wonder why this is the case? Is it because the novel has long been thought a female form and as a result it is legitimate for women to write them and win awards for doing do? Having said all this, I speaking from memory and have not done the research.

  3. Scott Edie

    Art really is a window on the wider world isn’t it? I realized that on looking at the list of the women artists most collected by art institutions presented in the Halperin and Burn research piece that I only recognized 5 of the 10 top ten collected, let alone further down the list. Surely, partly the lens I view through, but also surely, that women’s artists are less promoted, and therefore less known in general.

    1. terryvatrt

      Good observation, Scott. Yes, it becomes a vicious circle, doesn’t it? I found the statistics for the success of the Hilma af Klint show encouraging.


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