The lack of progress for women in the art world

  • Only 8 percent of the work that the Museum of Modern Art exhibits is by women.
  • Only about 23 percent of solo gallery shows at top New York sites feature pieces by female artists.
  • Women are consistently only 15% of the names on Artforum‘s, Art + Auction‘s, and ArtReview‘s annual “power lists.”

I was reacquainted with these baffling statistics when I sat on a panel on women in the art world as part of the opening of an incredible new show of women’s work called “A Room of Her Own” at Lu Magnus Gallery (also a part of the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas). I was invited by my friend Natalie Frank, who is a force to be reckoned with (her work is pictured above).

The conversation got me thinking a lot about the barriers–institutional, social, and internal–that still keep women artists’ and their critical work from getting respect in the art world. In my column at TAP, I wrote:

A contemporary woman artist still needs a room of one’s own and, as Woolf also urged, financial security, in order to make great art, but she also needs “an ego of one’s own,” and “a network of one’s own.” If her art is to get out into the world — written about, represented by galleries, and anointed by museums and art collectors as worthy — she has to be able to talk her work up, have somebody powerful willing to listen when she does, and not face gender stereotypes that she is transgressing social norms by doing so.

It seems to me that the art world needs the equivalent of The Op-Ed Project, an organization that can train women artists to represent their work, seek out representation, and support one another in finally, and once and for all, making sure our visual culture is inclusive and diverse.

Join the Conversation

  • sara

    Indeed, it cannot be argued that there is a highly disproportionate amount of men’s art out there.
    However, it should be noted that Cindy Sherman’s print (I think #68?) just became the highest paid for photograph, ever.
    A little good news for women in the arts :)

  • Melissa Huang

    This is incredibly frustrating to me, as the majority of my peers in art school are women, yet outside of school the majority of recognized artists are men. Obviously there are women going into the arts, so it’s a problem with how our work is viewed compared to the work of men.

    It’s likely also based in how, as children, we’re really only taught about men artists. Women artists are limited to Georgia O’Keeffe, Frieda Kahlo, and Artemisia Gentileschi if you’re lucky (and really only if you take art history classes). After a while we start to think, there are no famous women artists, therefore women must be bad at art. Even the contemporary art world is dominated by men’s names, which is sad seeing as how many great women artists there are! Jenny Saville, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Kiki Smith, too many to count! Yet we’re constantly only hearing about Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.

    If I graduate and my less talented gentlemen friends do better than my incredibly talented lady friends (not that it’s always that way of course!) I will be angrier than the angriest person in angry town.

    • Rita

      That makes two of us. I’ll be attending the Academy of Art Univeristy, where there is a female president, majority female students, but the grads who are recognized the most are male. Not only does this make me extremely pissed off, but makes me pessimistic about the world in general.

      What? Women can’t be creative? Are our small minds only capable of making sammiches, cleaning, raising children and taking abuse?