In 2018, the National Gallery in London purchased a painting by the Baroque master, Artemisia Gentileschi, to improve the gender balance in its 2300-work collection. That lifted the number of works by women artists on the walls… to 26.
Yeah. Colour me singularly underwhelmed. An article I wrote for The Saturday Paper on the gender balance – or, to be more accurate, complete imbalance – in the visual arts was published this morning. If you scoot over to their website, you can see the entire article. There’s more than enough shattering pieces of data to convince even the most dubious reader that, yes – Houston, we have a problem.
My conclusion? To quote from the article (pretty sure I can quote myself without fear of plagiarism):
The heart of the problem? And it’s one no number of quotas and well intentioned initiatives will fix, because what we’re trying to budge is the rusted-on bias that has informed the art world for centuries – that women’s art speaks of women’s things, and those things are of little or no interest to men. If we value women’s art less than we do men’s, then we need to rethink what it is that we value in art. If women’s art doesn’t slot neatly into the art historical narrative, then that story needs to be rewritten.