The F Word: Feminism or Future?

Joanne Artman Gallery
Oct 4, 2018 5:09PM

Recently, women artists have been receiving press with a New York Times Article entitled, “Want to Get Rich Buying Art? Invest in Women,” championing women-made art as a savvy business investment. Also featured in the news is The United Kingdom’s “The Other Art Fair,” which is notably including an exhibition within the fair called “Not 30%,” a collective of women artists which references the reported statistic of women against the male dominated art world.

Guerrilla Girls, Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? Screen-print on Paper, 11” x 28”, Image: Tate Modern

The existence of famous female artists, such as Marina Abramovic, Tracey Emin, and Yayoi Kusama give the impression that we have achieved equality in the art world. However, for an industry that prides itself on diversity, the art world continues to lack female representation. Despite 60% of art graduates being women, the presence of women in galleries and museums amounts to 30%.

The changed climate can be attributed to a host of causes: the increased focus on women’s rights across society, the current “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements, decades of activism by feminist artists, or even economics. But a much more gratifying explanation is that the art and their artists are deserving.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed/ White Flower No.1, Oil on Canvas, 83.5” x 70”

Similar to the social movements that fight for women’s equality, the quest for fair representation of female artists is an old issue yet to be entirely resolved. In the 80’s, the rebel art group, “Guerrilla Girls,” brought gender and inequality to the forefront within the greater arts community. It stated ‘less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female’. Adding to the prejudice, the value of women artists reflects a financial disparity. The auction record for a deceased female artist is held by Georgia O’Keefe, for Jimson Weed/White Flower No1, which sold for $44.4 million in 2014, just 25% of the record-breaking $179 million paid for Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger the following year. While pricing of artwork by a woman is still a fraction of that of men, female artists such as Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, and Grace Hartigan have been surpassing previous sale records at auction. As paintings by women rise in popularity, there is every expectation that their auction prices will continue to soar.

Recognition of women in the arts as endorsed by the New York Times article and by other establishments offering opportunities for women artists are crucial steps in achieving equality. Providing visibility is essential in showcasing the breadth, ability, and worth of women and extraordinary perspectives they offer that men simply cannot.

Helen Frankenthaler, “Red Square,” Oil and Crayon on Canvas, 68” x 127”, Image: © 2014 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Joanne Artman Gallery