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The last time I spoke with Micol Hebron, earlier 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)
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.”