Unequal women in art

This video from the USA is called Contextual Texture – Women Artists-Unusual Materials.

From British daily The Guardian:

Will women artists ever get the respect they deserve?

Once again, men outnumber women on the Art Review‘s Power 100 list – further proof, if you need it, of the lack of equality in the art world

o Laura Allsop

o Tuesday October 14 2008 11.28 BST

The phrase “women in art” inevitably brings to mind the many women who have appeared in works of art through the ages: Cimabue’s Madonnas, Ingres’s odalisques, Schiele‘s prostitutes. In Western art, women have been routinely caught and framed by the male gaze, and their position in the artworld has traditionally been that of muse.

There were exceptions; in her book Women Gallerists, Claudia Herstatt explains that the concept of the female gallerist is not entirely confined to the 20th and 21st centuries and points to the unsung women (such as Agnes Dürer and Rembrandt’s first wife, Saskia) who managed their husbands’ art practices. Happily, since the beginning of the 20th century and especially since the end of the second world war, the roles women have been able to command in the art world have expanded to take in all those previously occupied by men – most notably those of artist, gallerist, curator, critic, collector.

Certain women, too, currently hold an enormous amount of power in the art world – but they tend to be outnumbered by their male counterparts. Lists like Art Review‘s Power 100, published today, show that a select few women are instrumental in making the artworld tick, but their number is underwhelming compared to the number of men: 15 women appear on the first half of this year’s list, including four collectors, four gallerists, three curators, two auctioneers and two art fair organisers; seven of these 15 are paired with a man with whom they share their position.

On average per year, there is a 70/30 split in favour of men, and it gets worse in the top 10, where few if any women feature. This year MoMA associate director Kathy Halbreich is the highest-ranking woman, in at number three, and she’s the first to appear on her own in the top 10 for five years.

Sadly, however, only three out of the 30 artists featured in the Power 100 are female, and these three all appear in the second half of the list, whereas five male artists appear in the first quartile alone. Iwona Blazwick, whose Whitechapel Art Gallery runs the MaxMara Art Prize for Women, posits that the reason men fetch more at auction for their work than women is “to do with the culture of collecting and the generation of wealth itself, whereby bullish, macho values are projected onto the making of objects of art”. And these difficulties faced by women artists are of course reflected in the Power 100.

Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and Marlene Dumas are the three women artists who make the cut for 2008. This year’s auctions have seen record amounts for works by them, but the record doesn’t lie in the comparison between these prices and those fetched by men, but rather compared with previous records set by women.

Cindy Sherman, of course, has been producing work since the 1970s and has weathered numerous changes in fashion. Her photo series (the most famous of which, Untitled Film Stills, examines the roles men and women occupy in art as much as life, and involved the artist photographing herself in a range of stereotypical female roles) are as critically important as they are expensive. Speaking to me via email, she made the point that the playing field for men and women is levelling out because of the constant pressure to locate the next new thing in art. Nevertheless, there is still, she feels, the pervasive idea that “work by women isn’t as ‘important'”. And there remains the difficulty of bringing the subject up at all – a desire to distance oneself from the battles of previous generations is prevalent among women, and the subject has become almost taboo.

But things are changing, albeit slowly. Three of the four contenders for this year’s Turner prize are women, and not before time: after all, 20 years’ worth of Turners have yielded only three female winners. There is still some way to go before the numbers equalise, but gradual shifts in the paradigm of what power entails will do some work. It can only be a matter of time before 70/30 becomes 50/50.

· This is an edited version of a longer article in this month’s edition of Art Review

Laura Allsop’s optimistic prediction may become true; not automatically, however. Very probably, a hard struggle against social structures working against women’s equality both in art and in society in general is needed for that.

“To help speed up the progress train — or, let’s be honest, to simply shine yet another spotlight on the art world’s inability to stop undercutting the potential of 50 percent of the planet’s population, here’s a list of deserving women artists, compiled by a few of the writers and editors of HuffPost Culture, MoMA should take heed to consider. ” (Read more here)

A little-known fact: some studios recently decided to no longer make female-lead movie: here.

Arab TV Soaps Reinforce Gender Bias: here.

Egon Schiele: here.

1 thought on “Unequal women in art

  1. Summer 1917: Egon Schiele organizes war exhibition in the Vienna Prater

    In 1914, the painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918) was not among those artists who greeted the war as a “cleansing storm.” Because of his weak constitution, he was initially rejected as unfit for military service, but in 1915, four days after his marriage to Edith Harms, he was drafted. He was spared, however, from experiencing the front.

    Schiele, an uncompromisingly rebellious artist, was known for his erotic nudes of morbid, ascetic bodies drawn with nervous strokes. He created a scandal and was even sent to prison because of his belief in artistic freedom. His sensitivity to the social problems of his time found expression in his numerous paintings of proletarian girls, his first models. His portraits also reveal a great empathy. Influenced by his relationship with Edith, he underwent a definite artistic maturation. His work became less provocative but often more effective.

    Schiele served initially as a writer in the POW camp Mühling. Here he drew the camp and portraits of prisoners and colleagues, but produced only one oil painting, The Old Mill. In his war journal of 1916, Schiele wrote that he befriended Russian officers in the camp. He discussed with them their mutual desire for peace and a vision of a united Europe without war and nationalism.

    In 1917, he was transferred to Vienna as a military administrative employee. In the summer he and his colleague, Albert Paris Gütersloh, were ordered to organize a war exhibition in the Vienna Prater. The theme of the commissioned work was rather appalling—the war is to be trivialized and portrayed as “enjoyable”—but Schiele was happy to finally escape his permanent state of financial distress. Karl Kraus wrote: “The war on display! I would visit a peace exhibition in which there was nothing to see but the victors hanged, the heroes of the money war who, as the fatherland cried out, heard only: now come the spoils!”

    That same year, Schiele also took part in exhibitions in Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Copenhagen and became known the world over. He produced his most famous landscape, Four Trees. In the foreground are black trees with withering leaves, on the horizon is the red sun in the evening sky. The painting takes up a central theme of his work: life and death.

    In 1918, he achieved his first great artistic and material success with the 49th exhibition of the “Viennese Secession,” devoted to Schiele and his artist friends. The poster for the Secession exhibition was based on an older painting, The Friends (Round Table). The colors in the painting are dark, while Schiele himself appears in white. In the poster, he wears red and is immersed in a book like his friends. One senses the atmosphere of spirited work, an awakening: with his friend and teacher Gustav Klimt and the composer Arnold Schönberg, Schiele planned to found an art gallery for a cultural revival after the war. But Klimt died in the middle of preparations, on February 6, 1918. In the autumn of the same year, Schiele’s wife Edith, six months pregnant, died in the second wave of the terrible Spanish flu epidemic. Three days later, on October 31, 1918, Schiele died of the same disease A fragile, restless and immensely productive artistic life was cut short.

    More works by Egon Schiele are available here.



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