Over 300 artists and cultural figureheads signed a letter, published September 3 addressing gender inequality at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival, hosted annually in the South of France. The authors directly addressed Sam Stourdzé, who has been the festival’s director for the past four years, asking: “What is your curation and heritage presented saying to the large audiences the festival serves?”
In 49 years, 47 editions have been entrusted to male artistic directors, all of whom have selected a large majority of male exhibitors. In Arles, the glass ceiling is very low for women: it rarely exceeds 20%.
… Throughout the world female artists who have been trained in the best art schools constitute more than 60% of the graduates. Yet, they receive less support, pay, and rewards, and represent barely 20% of the artists exhibited in France.
The 2018 installment, which began July 2 and will run through September 23, hosts 15 majors exhibitions, 12 by men and only 3 by women (one of whom, the signatories say, “exclusively photographed the work of another artist, a man.”)
They say women photographers are marginalized in the festival and in the art world at large. They denounce: “observatory or special prizes for women: these actions do not contribute to a real concrete progress. It is time for real action. And that action is to simply to exhibit women artists. Women do not want exceptions — they want a fair, equal share to level the playing field, including at international festivals like the Rencontres d’Arles.”
They say gender equality in the arts affects “artists, the public, art history, and the market.” They urge Stourdzé to institute a display of 50% women for the 50th anniversary of Rencontres d’Arles in 2019.