Discrimination against women at the top trickles down into every aspect of the art world—gallery representation, auction price differentials, press coverage, and inclusion in permanent-collection displays and solo-exhibition programs.A glance at the past few years of special-exhibition schedules at major art institutions in the United States, for instance, especially the presentation of solo shows, reveals the continued prevalence of gender disparity.Of all the solo exhibitions since 2007 at the Whitney Museum, 29 percent went to women artists. In the year 2000, the Guggenheim in New York had zero solo shows by women.
Of all the solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou since 2007, only 16 percent went to women.In 1980 it was 1.1 percent, in 1990 it was 0.4 percent, and in 2000 it was 0.2 percent (Fig. In the UK the Hayward Gallery comes out with the worst mark, with only 22 percent of solo exhibitions dedicated to female artists over the past 7 years.Whitechapel Gallery is at 40 percent—thanks to its feminist director, Iwona Blazwick.espite encouraging signs of women’s improved status and visibility in the art world, there are still major systemic problems.Do not misunderstand me: women artists are in a far better position today than they were 45 years ago, when Linda Nochlin wrote her landmark essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? Access to “high art” education, to which women have historically been denied, is now possible for many with financial means.
(According to , in 2006 women represented more than 60 percent of the students in art programs in the United States.) Moreover, the institutional power structures that Nochlin argued made it “impossible for women to achieve artistic excellence, or success, on the same footing as men, no matter what the potency of their so-called talent, or genius,” have been shifting. The common refrain that “women are treated equally in the art world now” needs to be challenged.
The existence of a few superstars or token achiever—like Marina Abramovic, Tracey Emin, and Cindy Sherman—does not mean that women artists have achieved equality. The more closely one examines art-world statistics, the more glaringly obvious it becomes that, despite decades of postcolonial, feminist, anti-racist, and queer activism and theorizing, the majority continues to be defined as white, Euro-American, heterosexual, privileged, and, above all, male.
Sexism is still so insidiously woven into the institutional fabric, language, and logic of the mainstream art world that it often goes undetected.
Last fall, artnet News asked 20 of the most powerful women in the art world if they felt the industry was biased and received a resounding “yes.” Several were museum directors who argued that the senior management, predominantly male, had a stranglehold on the institutions, often preventing them from instituting substantive change.
According to a 2014 study “The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships,” conducted by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), female art-museum directors earn substantially less than their male counterparts, and upper-level positions are most often occupied by men.
The good news is that, while in 2005 women ran 32 percent of the museums in the United States, they now run 42.6 percent—albeit mainly the ones with the smallest budgets.