New Tally Shows Sexism Alive and Well at Top NYC Art Galleries

The Guerrilla Girls' 1986 Report Card alongside Pussy Galore's 2015 Report Card (image via Maura Reilly/Facebook)
The Guerrilla Girls’ 1986 Report Card alongside Pussy Galore’s 2015 Report Card (image via Maura Reilly/Facebook) (click to enlarge)

Curator Maura Reilly posted an image of gallery gender statistics on Facebook today, a “report card” by anonymous feminist art collective Pussy Galore showing the percentages of women represented by some of the top art galleries in New York City. The card is shown alongside its model: a piece by the Guerrilla Girls (also an anonymous feminist art collective) from 29 years ago, which similarly tallied the number of women represented by top New York galleries at the time.

The 2015 stats are a mixed but still largely dispiriting lot, as only 5 galleries out of the 34 listed have rosters that rise above 50% women — though artist Marilyn Minter, in comments on the Facebook post, has rightly pointed out that Salon 94’s percentage is incorrect on the report card; it’s shown as 48% but actually breaks down to 52%. The most sexist of the bunch is Tony Shafrazi Gallery, whose roster contains only 5% women, followed closely by Marlborough Gallery (7%) and Sperone Westwater (9%). All three of those galleries are also included in the 1986 Guerrilla Girls version, which doesn’t give percentages but rather the number of female artists represented by each gallery over a period of two years, along with tongue-in-cheek, report-card-style remarks (a bit of comic relief sadly missing from Pussy Galore’s update). This year’s three worst offenders had abysmal numbers back then too — but so did everyone.

Happily, there has been some improvement in the past three decades: Mary Boone Gallery went from having zero women on its roster to 17%, and Marian Goodman Gallery from a single woman to 23%. Paddy Johnson went ahead and compared Pussy Galore’s current numbers to data tallied by the art collective Brainstormers in 2010 and found major improvement at Jack Shainman Gallery (20% then; 47% now), as well as the surprise that Tony Shafrazi’s current absurdly low number is actually an increase from five years ago. According to her, Marlborough and Sperone Westwater have gotten worse in the same period.

For those unfamiliar with Pussy Galore (I was), the group is an “an international feminist art collective — artists, curators, critics, collectors, educators, and writers — dedicated to eradicating sexism in the art world via a series of insurrectionist tactics — be it artwork, actions/performances, exhibitions, purchases, articles, classes, books, and so forth,” they explained to me over email. “We prefer to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.”

Asked to perhaps round out that portrait a little more, Reilly told me she thinks Pussy Galore is “doing amazing work! And because they’re anonymous it’s hard for me to relay to you how much they are doing. (And I don’t know all.) It’s not just posters! It’s real grassroots activism — it’s super inspiring — and I’m thrilled they exist. We need them, still. As sad a fact as that is.”

The group says its work is focused exclusively on sexism in the art world. “We have a one-point mission! Though there is great racial/geographic/sexual diversity within the group, we consider tackling gender inequality our primary issue,” they wrote. Like the Guerrilla Girls before them, and like their peer Micol Hebron, whose Gallery Tally project is ongoing, Pussy Galore sees counting as “a feminist strategy … And we will continue [the] legacy of counting ad nauseum until real substantive changes are evidenced.”

Today’s report card is just a teaser for things to come; the group has amassed a host of other stats, which will be presented in a forthcoming article by Reilly in ARTnews this summer.

Correction: This article originally misstated the number of galleries on Pussy Galore’s report card. There are 34, not 17.

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