Guerrilla Girls have always called out names and made damning facts available to the public. One imagines they might be afraid of alienating the entire art establishment and having nowhere left to exhibit. But in these latest statistics, they also investigate Whitechapel’s position on diversity, revealing that between 2011 and 2015, only 13 percent of the solo exhibitions that took place at the gallery were by artists from outside Europe and the U.S.
“We are provocative, but we want to transform, not just to criticize,” Kahlo says. “So we always embarrass institutions and it’s been helpful: There are a lot of issues now that we are at least aware of. When we started, museums used to tell us that they don’t show women artists or artists of color because they don’t rise to standards. They’d never get away with saying that now.”
So who is
doing well? The Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art
in the Netherlands has the highest number of gender non-conforming artists in their exhibition program (78), while Poland trumped other countries with their relatively strong representation of women artists in their museum collections. Incredibly, all but one of the Polish museums that responded also have female directors. As their poster remarks, perhaps it’s even better
The mission has been not only to hold museums, curators, collectors, and artists accountable for discrimination in the art world, but also to empower and encourage dialogue through their activism. The questionnaire gave museums the chance to voice their own concerns—funding being the thing that’s keeping most museum directors awake at night—and even to send complaints back about the questionnaire itself.
While some European museums appear to point a finger at the influence of U.S. museums, their fears about funding align with the Guerrilla Girls’ persistent concerns over the art world’s triangular economy. “Artists are being reduced to a capitalist instrument, rather than a product of culture,” Kahlo explains. “That is very dangerous, when oligarchs are telling us our art history.”