Where are the women?

While white women dominate the growing pink collar workforce at most museums in the US, the representation of women as the focus for exhibition and scholarship at museums continues to lag behind.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has taken up the call to increase awareness of this disparity with their third year of the #5WomenArtists campaign. The campaign asks cultural organizations and individual social media users the question “Can you name five women artists?” It aims to help increase awareness of gender inequality in the art world. This year, the museum is asking social media users to place a special emphasis on sharing the stories of women artists of color who often face discrimination based on both race and gender.  

“In this watershed era when influential men are losing their jobs due to sexual abuse and harassment, and women are speaking out with powerful #MeToo stories, discussions about gender inequity have renewed significance,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “There is no better time than now to raise awareness that the art world also disadvantages women’s opportunities and advancement, with women artists of color experiencing a double disadvantage in an already challenging field.”

“Very few collections highlight women artists. When talking about women artists of color the numbers drop even more dramatically,” said NMWA’s Director of Public Programs Melani Douglass. “Collections, exhibitions and programs are beginning to become more inclusive as leaders in the field actively push for equity, not only in the arts, but also in arts administration, so that those who are making the decisions about what’s bought, shown and discussed focus on equity for all women.”

In addition, the feminist art activists The Guerrilla Girls are back on the scene. With a new exhibition at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA, these influencial women are continuing the conversations that they started in the 1980s and 90s about women in the art world. Now they are taking on galleries, collectors and museums in new campaigns. 

Here are some facts about women in the arts from the National Museum of Women in the Arts

  • Work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe, and 34% in Australian state museums. (Judy Chicago for the GuardianCountess Report)

  • Of 590 major exhibitions by nearly 70 institutions in the U.S. from 2007–2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists. (The Art Newspaper)

  • Women still lag behind men in directorships held at museums with budgets over $15 million, holding 30% of art museum director positions and earning 75¢ for every dollar earned by male directors. (Association of Art Museum Directors)

  • The top three museums in the world, the British Museum (est. 1753), the Louvre (est. 1793), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (est. 1870) have never had female directors.

  • The 2009 Venice Biennale edition featured 43% women; in 2013, it dropped to 26%. In 2015, it was 33%, and in 2017 was 35%.  No major international exhibition of contemporary art has achieved gender parity. (ARTnewsArtsy)      

  • Only 32% of the winners of the Turner Prize, one of the most well known visual art awards, have been women. In 2017, Lubaina Himid became the first woman of color to win. (WikipediaHyperallergic)

  • Only 27 women (out of 318 artists) are represented in the 9th edition of H.W. Janson’s survey, Basic History of Western Art—up from zero in the 1980s.

Want to get involved? #5WomenArtists 
Who is your museum for? Here's a great handout from the Incluseum. 
How to support women artists- from NEA's blog




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