Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

The last time I spoke with Micol Hebronearlier this year, she was spearheading Gallery Tally, a project for which she and a small army of volunteers count the numbers of men and women artists on the rosters of art galleries. A week and a half ago, Hebron was in Miami for the art fairs, so she took the opportunity to do some more counting. Walking around Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB), she stopped at various booths to tally the gender breakdowns of the artists on view, engaging dealers, directors, and attendants in discussions along the way.

“The people that I talked to seemed to be more aware of the issue than they were last year,” Hebron told me over email. “I approached all of the galleries with the same question I did last year, stating objectively that I was simply doing gender in the arts. This year I was met with more preemptive responses, with people more quickly saying things like, ‘Oh, you are not going to be happy with our numbers,’ indicating that they have surmised that I was interested in the underrepresentation of women.”

Those people were, I dare say, defensive for a reason; the underrepresentation of women artists — and women in all corners of the art world, especially the upper echelons like leading galleries and the top levels of museum administration — remains a major issue, and few people seem to think it’s their job to do anything about it.

Hebron was only able to crunch the numbers for 31 out of ABMB’s 267 galleries, but here’s what she found:

  • Marianne Boesky: 8 artists total, 0 women (0% women)
  • Almine Rech: 14 artists total, 1 woman (7% women)
  • Dominique Levy: 12 artists total, 1 woman, (8% women)
  • Xavier Hufkens: 10 artists total, 1 woman (10% women)
  • David Nolan: 27 artists total, 3 women (11% women)
  • Annely Juda: 15 artists total, 2 women (13% women)
  • Galeria OMR: 15 artists total, 2 women (13% women)
  • Team Gallery: 7 artists total, 1 woman (14% women)
  • Sean Kelly: 18 artists total, 3 women (17% women)
  • Thaddaeus Ropac: 11 artists total, 2 women (18% women)
  • MAI Gallery: 11 artists total, 2 women, (18% women)
  • Regen Projects: 16 artists total, 3 women (19% women)
  • Chantal Crousel: 9 artists total, 2 women (22% women)
  • Henrique Faria: 25 artists total, 6 women (24% women)
  • Ingleby Gallery: 4 artists total, 1 woman (25% women)
  • Galleria Continua: 11 artists total, 3 women (27% women)
  • Stephen Friedman: 14 artists total, 4 women (29% women)
  • Kukje Gallery: 17 artists total, 5 women (29% women)
  • Lehmann Maupin: 7 artists total, 2 women (29% women)
  • White Cube: 13 artists total, 4 women (31% women)
  • Jocelyn Wolff: 6 artists total, 2 women (33% women)
  • Peter Freeman: 15 artists total, 5 women (33% women)
  • Maccarone: 6 artists total, 2 women (33% women)
  • Greene Naftali: 11 artists total, 4 women (36% women)
  • Kavi Gupta: 11 artists total, 4 women (36% women)
  • James Cohan: 16 artists total, 6 women (38% women)
  • Cheim and Read: 10 artists total, 4 women, (40% women)
  • Miguel Abreu: 7 artists total, 3 women (43% women)
  • Victoria Miro: 7 artists total 3 women (43% women)
  • Chemould Prescott Road: 8 artists total, 4 women (50% women)
  • Sikkema Jenkins: 11 artists total, 7 women (64% women)
A view of the ‘Auto Body' exhibition (click to enlarge)

A view of the ‘Auto Body’ exhibition (click to enlarge)

At the bottom of the list she sent me, Hebron added Anthony Spinello, a Miami gallerist who was not included in ABMB this year but who produced Auto Body, a concurrent exhibition near the fair that was devoted entirely to women artists.

As for the rest of the list — well, it’s heartening to see only a single zero, but equally disheartening to see that only two galleries rank at 50% or above (women make up about 49.6% of the world population). One of them, Chemould Prescott Road, is the only gallery Hebron polled that is based in India, which may mean nothing but seems interesting somehow.

Hebron said she had not done a comparative analysis with last year, but “the numbers seem about the same.” She added that this time around she asked more gallerists whether they represent any trans artists, and all of them said no. “One gallerist actually said, ‘Oh, no … but that’s not the kind of art that I show, anyway.’ When I asked what he meant, he went on to infer that trans artists all made work about identity, and then, he went on to conflate trans artists with gay artists. I told him that I considered gender and sexuality to be distinct and that I was not tallying sexuality. He seemed confused.”

This was not the only distressing encounter. Three gallery workers feigned phone calls or simply walked away when Hebron broached the subject of “gender in the art world.” One gallerist said women have “the privilege of the choice to give up their careers to have families,” Hebron reported; another made it clear that their gallery doesn’t practice “positive discrimination.” Yet another explained that he had a program of conceptual and text-based art, and that was why his gallery had 90% male artists. And still another said what the others might have been thinking all along: “I just curate what I like, and I like art by men better.”

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...

27 replies on ““I Like Art by Men Better”: Gender by the Numbers at Art Basel Miami Beach”

  1. The Brainstormers ( covered this issue back in 2005 thru 2011 with similar findings. Sadly, not surprising.

  2. It’s not apples and oranges…art is a capitalist market. And it is a truism of capitalism: if you’ve got the goods, you’ll get paid!

  3. I find that men tend to be more risk takers in the art world. Not always true, but I think this is why there is more appeal to mens work than womens. Whenever I go to a gallery and see a womens’ art pieces they always tend to stay in the safe side of things or sometimes they get to caught up in their bullshit. I always find that they lack intensity, especially contemporary women artists. They get to damn moody with their artwork and it just makes it unappealing. I think this is why galleries don’t curate much women artists, because they tend to stay in the crafts and scrapbooking type of art that doesn’t really grab anyone’s attention span for more than 3-5 seconds. Just make a study in a contemporary art gallery. Note how long an audience will look at an artists work and record data on if the artist is male or female. Again, I want to emphasize that I don’t mean all female artists, just most.

      1. I have no data, but just observe like I have. heck, I’ll do my own study. Most as in not all, not all women artists.

    1. ‘women are too emotional. How dare they reclaim traditional women’s crafts and make them contemporary how boring. I’m too close minded to open my mind to any forms of art I deem feminine as may it insult my sense of masculinity! Also I am saying this with absolutely no evidence this is the case’

      1. I’m not close minded at all, it’s the damn truth. A lot of moody work isn’t really successful because rich people don’t want to look at some estrogen reeking shit on their wall all the time. So galleries curate artists to appeal to power hungry capitalist pigs and rich oil shieks, because that is where the monies at, and that is how they get their cut.

    2. troll?
      “they tend to stay in the crafts and scrapbooking type of art”
      definitely a troll. and a wanker.

    3. I know what you mean. Women’s art is usually way too emotional. Mood swingy. Always changing its mind. I also find that it’s needy, jealous, possessive and manipulative, and is always trying to get itself married or knocked up. Also, women’s art isn’t very intelligent. You know, in a rational way or a concrete way. It’s kind of hysterical and easily distracted and also it tends to look really good at first but then it lets itself go.

      1. Let’s forget not to generalize, there are some phenomenal female artists out there, but most of the female artists these days are not really getting it. Sure it’s emotional concepts, sure you are making a statement but are your really selling something? Did ever come across you that if you want to be an artist it is your job? A lot of females miss this point in the art world and a lot of them end up making feminist mumbo jumbo that has so much bullshit in it that reeks of implied lies. It’s outdated by now. Nothing is wrong with the occasional feminist artpiece, but once you start making it your style or thing you just become like an annoying crying baby. Feminist artists belonged in their era, grow some balls and take some risks for a change.

  4. The entire problem rests in the post by neigh down there. That post is indicative of the entire bullcrap mindset that causes this problem.

    1. sure sure, dismiss my argument without actually putting some thought into it. Look at art history, who are the typical buyers of art? Rich men, whether it be wall street brokers or oil shieks. They usually want to buy something that reflects a “mans thought”. Since the trend goes to men’s artwork, galleries try to get artists that appeal to rich mens tastes, because that is where the money is at. That is where they get their cut.

  5. This is a damning tally. It would be great to do something like this with a bigger number of volunteers to get the exact tally. “I just like art my men better” says it all.

  6. You have done the due diligence as you have seen fit to do, and as a woman, a female artist and thinker on this long standing, long suffering issue, I am grateful to you for having done so. Thank you. It turns the stomach to a certain degree, to read the final telltale quote here become it is so prevailing, so commonplace, spoken or unspoken, and so small minded when we consider that the majority of what goes for art, fine art and even pioneering art by males is ugly and banal. Just as it is his (I hope it was a “he” who stated the comment), his opinion to say he is a gatekeeper and prefers male artists, I have the right to say, the majority of male artists suck and in a not nice way. Forgive me the pun, it does come to mind. But then we can consider that the old world of art curatorial and the entire gallery system for the most part is undergoing a serious and probably complete (in the due course of time) transformation with online art commerce and the accompanying changes, there is a renewed hope for women artists that has little or nothing to do with what the curators like or don’t like.*

  7. 372 artists total in this survey, and 92 are female artists, or roughly 25%…. That is surprisingly low… However, given the South American influence (i.e. Buyers) at Art Basel, maybe this isn’t so surprising at all.

  8. I would wager that 99% of the buyers are investment-art buyers and not traditional collectors. If their art purchasing decisions are determined by predictions of future monetary value, then they are going to tend towards purchasing art by men because women remain undervalued and underrepresented in museums and other major collections. Why is it so hard to just tell the truth? The fairs are about money; not art.

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