To Be Equal, Not a Sequel
An Exhibition of Posters on the Dominance of Male Artists in Galleries
BY PAULINE ADAMEK
While it is generally accepted that there is an imbalance in gender representation in the art world that tilts towards male artists, the data for galleries — meaning the actual numbers of artists who have secured gallery representation — have not been visualized and publicized since the Guerrilla Girls’ efforts in the 1980s.
Enter (en)Gendered (in)Equity: The Gallery Talley Poster Project — a collaborative effort curated by artist Micol Hebron. The exhibit strives to expose the continued, gaping gender imbalance of artists who get their works professionally represented. It does so by featuring numerous visual accounts of the actual numbers of male versus female artists with works at top-tier venues. Now showing at ForYourArt gallery on Wilshire Boulevard in the Fairfax District through May 9, (en)Gendered (in)Equity was first seen late last year at West LA College Art Gallery.
The exhibition is a crowd-sourced, social engagement art project in which over 500 artists from around the world have now joined the effort. Timed to open during Women’s History Month, the exhibition currently features over 250 posters.
The artists were invited to select any number of galleries, and then, for each gallery, to create one poster (24” x 36”) representing gender ratios there, in whatever style or medium they chose.
Launched in Los Angeles and initially focusing on L.A. galleries, the project is now in its second phase, extending its gaze to galleries in New York. Subsequent visualizations will include Berlin, London, Chicago, Santa Fe, Portland, Pittsburg, and other cities.
Artist Carolyn Campbell spoke to Stage Raw about her participation.
STAGE RAW For your part in the exhibition – how did you select the images to serve the concept of the exhibition?
CAROLYN CAMPBELL: “Initially, I was naively hoping to find more 50/50 representation in galleries. I wanted to illustrate a hopeful balance, but after noticing the great disparity in gender representation, I opted instead to address that issue in the galleries I selected.”
SR: How many did you choose and what formed your statement?
CC: “I chose Marlborough Chelsea, a satellite of the main Marlborough Gallery, one of the world’s leading artist reps. Not surprisingly, the Chelsea branch ranked among the most egregious examples of New York galleries when it came to gender inequity at 93% male and 7% female. Kerry Schuss Art, at 73% male and 27% female, was not as bad, though not great, yet I was encouraged to see the great reviews his women artists have received. I hope that Mr. Schuss will take note of that fact and work a bit harder to add more women to his roster. The two female figures in my works (photos of 19th century sculptures from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris) are overwhelmed with exasperation in response to the gallery tally for these two dealers.”
Some background on your photography work at that Paris cemetery?
“I have been writing about and photographing Père Lachaise Cemetery for close to 30 years. The breathtaking architecture and sculpture of the tombs marks the final resting places of some of the world’s most beloved artists, from Chopin to Delacroix and Rosa Bonheur to Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde to Modigliani. The female figure in funerary iconography is traditionally linked to the Seven Virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude and Justice. The two images that I chose for the (en)Gendered (in)Equity exhibition are powerful examples of how women embody some of the deepest qualities of the human condition.
(en)Gendered (in)Equity is in some ways a reboot of the awareness campaign raised by the Guerrilla Girls. In 1984, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City staged a large group exhibition entitled An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture. Of the 169 artists represented, only 13 were women. A group of women artists — some prominent, others on the fringe — decided to do something about it. Concealing their true identities for fear of a backlash from the establishment, they called themselves the Guerrilla Girls, even adopting the obviously fake names of dead female artists to preserve their anonymity in interviews. For their acts of politicized street art, the women donned monkey masks and pasted posters all over Soho that revealed and damned the art world for their prevailing exclusion of women artists. In an interview that aired on NPR’s Fresh Air radio show, “Frida Kahlo” said, “We decided to find out how bad it was. After about five minutes of research, we found that it was worse than we thought: the most influential galleries and museums exhibited almost no women artists.”
(en)Gendered (in)Equity: The Gallery Tally Poster Project, an exhibition of posters curated by Micol Hebron, remains on view at ForYourArt, 6020 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles;
Monday-Thursday: 11am-5pm; Friday-Sunday: Various Times. Through May 9.