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.
Is there not a small problem with this? Doesn’t this assume that 50% of all artists are men and 50% are women? Is that true? If it IS true, then these numbers are meaningful. If not, shouldn’t we be comparing the percentage of female artists represented in NY galleries to the percentage of females among artists with access to NY galleries? If 65% of artists with access to NY galleries are women, a “passing grade” should be around 65%. If 10% of such artists are women, a passing grade should be close to 10%.
The whole time I was reading the article, I was thinking the EXACT same thing. Thank you for posting this.
The same thought occurred to me…. I love being outraged as much as the next person, but I think more data is needed. Can anyone come up with these numbers? I own a gallery in Newport, RI and while I have no idea what the ratio of male/female artists is that have access to me, I just did a quick tally and am happy to report that I represent thirteen male artists and thirteen female artists. Until reading this article today, I never stopped to think about it… which gives me something to think about.
I think those numbers are necessary too– And should be the next step. HOWEVER, we do know that of MFA programs, 65-75% of students are women, so if that is any indication of how many practicing artists there are, it’s mostly female. Which makes these numbers even more embarrassing and unfortunate.
I agree that a lot more numbers are needed to fully process these, and also figure out what the next steps are or would be. But your use of the phrase “access to NY galleries” is really interesting to me—what does that even mean? And isn’t the fact that so many people don’t have access the larger part of the problem?
I work at The Maryland Institute of Art where the undergraduate class is approximately 70% female and the graduate class is about 60% female so the numbers shown here may be even worse than they look. Also I think it might be time to highlight galleries that have a better represented program so they enjoy recognition and publicity. I will start the list Asya Geisberg Gallery ( I looked at Pierogi, Jeff Bailey, and Petzel but their numbers were dismal).
I think that the key phrase is “access to NY galleries”. Because of overall inequalities, fewer women HAVE access. So it’s a bigger picture issue. This is just one way of spinning it.
I was thinking that the percentages are a bit circumstantial. Galleries may have had higher percentages in other years. But, that doesn’t mean that issues don’t exist. A gallery shouldn’t have to interrupt it’s flow of work for that year, in order to represent all genders equally. However, because there is generally not gender equality, this becomes a visible issue.
When you examine the tallies that come up across the country in exhibits at museums, galleries, and non-profits that are created from blind jurying, and therefore completely on merit, you will notice that there is a fairly even representation of male/female. In areas outside of NY, the ratios in galleries are more evenly distributed for the most part. It is no secret that work produced by men has generated higher sale prices to date, so selling a potentially higher priced item in an area with horrifying monthly rent prices can be a survival business plan. Until the market price of art becomes blind to the sex of the artist who has produced it, this problem will persist. Visibility in a-list galleries unfortunately also lends “legitimacy” to those artists, which has a corresponding effect on curators in some museums, leading to an absurd imbalance of who is represented in their roster, though this is changing also. According to a past member of the curating staff at ICA Boston that I talked to last year, finding outstanding women and minorities for exhibits is ridiculously easy. It is actually hard work to avoid equal representation. (ICA Boston is noted for it’s diversity in curating). Keep in mind that a contemporary museum is not selling the work on their walls, though. Things are improving, but without constant diligence any culture can go regress, so I’m glass that the weenie count is still alive and being documented! Thank you, Pussy Galore. (gag I wish you picked a better name)
Shafrazi is closed, basically, and has been for a couple of years – shows what happens when you ignore the girls! More seriously, anyone who knows a woman artist who has decided to have a kid also knows that it takes a good chunk out of their professional lives. This is of course both a blessing and an unfairness — but it suggests that asking for absolute parity may well be unrealistic.
Because it’s unrealistic for a partner to share in childrearing? The only reason asking for parity seems unrealistic is because people who benefit from discrimination aren’t willing to budge.
I’m so over the whole “…we draw attention to inequality in the Art world but we’re an ‘anonymous collective’ for obvious reasons…” crap. Current Artists like Micol Hebron (http://micolhebron.com) and her extant “Gallery Tally” are already doing this precise kind of research in a far better and more explicit manner – and not hiding behind a smokescreen of anonymity. Anyone who feels they need to hide in crowd, whether it’s Guerrilla Girls, Pussy Galore, Reedykeulous, or any of the others of that ilk – if the group exists fundamentally to shield participants because they’re too afraid to stand up for who they are and their own opinions, then I’m basically not interested in listening. If I’m willing to engage directly, so should they in this day and age.
I concur that more credit is due to Micol Hebron’s Gallery Tally as it has been more comprehensive, more inclusive, and more rigorous – but totally disagree with your assertion that anonymity is a liability in this work. Unless you face the same repercussions for “engaging directly” as do those who are doing the work (most likely you don’t), you can’t enforce that standard, it’s wholly unfair. I’d wager that the women in this anonymous collective are fairly vocal as (named) individuals about these diversity issues. I would also argue that there is power in anonymity that comes from reclaiming a voice erased by history (see “Anonymous was a Woman” http://www.amazon.com/Anonymous-Was-Woman-Celebration-Traditional/dp/0312134304).
It’s not unfair at all. It hasn’t damaged Micol’s career in any way – in fact in her case, if anything, it’s jump started it! And the rest you write is blah blah blah. If you have something to say, then say it and own it, repercussions or no. Can you imagine Ghandi or MLK or Steinem or Harvey Milk declaring their ideas ‘anonymously’? It’s EASY to disregard people in anonymous groups. It’s much harder when there are actual names to the faces. Pussy Riot is another such case – no one cared until they knew their names and faces. I call chicken-shit on Pussy Galore.
There are so many problems with your comment I honestly don’t know where to start. Suffice it to say you’re not doing the cause any favors with your attitude. The Guerrilla Girls have been enormously visible and quite effective as an anonymous collective. All of the named people you cite were supported by decades of preceding work by organizers and community activists, most of them unknown to us today, whether they chose anonymity or it was thrust upon them. There would be no Gandhi or MLK or Steinem or Milk without those countless lesser-known activists, many of whom we don’t know because they were killed for their beliefs. I will say, though, that I fail to understand why anyone would want to participate in a gallery system that is this obviously biased, and I don’t agree with artists trying to protect themselves from repercussions within this system when the system itself so obviously deserves to be boycotted.
And I think your entire argument from wall to wall is just the endless rhetorical posturing of trying to play the “victim card.” It’s old, it’s dreary, and after a couple of decades, you’d think that point would be crystal-clear to all sides of the proposition. Tell me – precisely – what do think that the Guerrilla Girls as an anonymous collective have actually accomplished? Have they been visible? Yes. Have they effectively accomplished anything actually meaningful? I don’t think so – *as thoroughly evidenced by the recent gallery tally*. As far as boycotting the system – that works for me – you go first – and please do it publicly, if you think it’s such a crucial gesture. Anonymity is not only a liability, it has basically emasculated (if I may use that analogy) whatever point the collective is trying to achieve – as I wrote above, it is exceptionally easy to dismiss an anonymous group out of hand – no matter how large – than it is a single person whom you can actually put a face and identity to.
I actually think the Guerrilla Girls have accomplished a lot, parity in institutional collections and exhibitions has improved significantly on their watch. The gallery system is the slowest to change and that’s directly related to wage discrepancy between men and women throughout the economy – when women earn less, their work is valued less. As for a boycott, I don’t work in for-profit galleries and am quite openly critical of the values espoused by the blue-chip art market (it’s worth noting, a lot of emerging artist galleries get better numbers in this count and Micol’s). It’s easier for me to opt out of that system as a curator though, I get paid a wage for labor, vs an artist who might have to depend on galleries to recoup costs and gain income. So my going first doesn’t mean that much.
Ah well you exemplify how discussions like this can devolve onto episodes from the battle between men and women, which I’m not very good at, being a hunchback with a limited understanding of females. I can say that I’ve known some women artists all to happy to leave their kids home with dad, though I think the majority of women aren’t ready to do that, no doubt because they’ve been brainwashed by patriarchy. In the particular case I was thinking of the mom stays with the kid while the father works to pay the bills. In that instance, obviously, both of their art careers suffer. But while everyone agrees that women are just as good artists as men, and are under-represented because of the sexism in our society, I don’t think that everyone agrees that A-list gallery representation is an unalloyed good. I think we have more goons and thugs who are male; will you argue for gender parity in that field as well? But let’s split some hairs; if you want to do identity politics, let’s do it. These stats suggest that we have more successful artists who are pricks, which is readily apparent, a sufficient if not necessary condition, as well as more bad art by men, which seems believable if not immediately proven. But the stats are also one-dimensional. For instance, those braving frigid conditions last night to attend A-list openings in Chelsea were treated to two women painters (Joyce Pensato at Petzel, Susan Frecon at Zwirner) one 80-something gay photog (Duane Michaels at DC Moore), and one gay African-American mixed-media artist with impressive rendering skills (Whitfield Lovell, also at DC Moore). It was a great evening in the New York art world, and obviously far removed from your beloved bureaucratic calculations. Which is not to say we don’t need bureaucrats, just that they give a crimped view of the world.
I’m sorry but does the author of this article think I am a idiot.
Simply taking an end figure like that without taking into account factors such as selection method of the galleries and the ratio of the genders of prospective artists is wasting everybody’s time.
This is on par with saying more women work as teachers therefore schools are sexist against men.
This whole article might as well read “flib-a-dob-dib-dob” for all the sense it is talking.
If I had to give this article a rating it would be:
F: Not applying itself to common sense.
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