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