As they are in most places, women tend to be marginalized in the art world; their work thought of as less competent and more “frivolous” than that of their male counterparts. This bias affects how much they or their estates make. The highest amount fetched for a work of art by a living female artist was $7.1 million for a Yayoi Kusama painting. Meanwhile, the highest-earning work by a living male artist was $58.4 million for a Jeff Koons sculpture. As for deceased artists, Georgia O’Keefe earns the top spot with $44.4 million for one of her paintings…versus a Francis Bacon triptych, which sold for $142.4 million. In an attempt to offset the effects of all that, London’s famed Saatchi Gallery is hosting an art show this month featuring all-female artists.
The art show – titled Champagne Life after a piece by Julia Wachtel, who will be featured – is focused on emerging female artists. According to The Guardian Saatchi Gallery chief executive Nigel Hurst believes that, while contemporary female artists have made great strides, there’s so much further to go, and it’s the responsibility of organizations like his to do some of that work:
We’ve always supported the work of women artists over the years, many of those have gone on to have key roles in the contemporary art world, but I think there’s still a huge amount of work to be done.Though women artists are far better represented in contemporary art now, in terms of the number of women artists that are having their work exhibited and shown, there remains a glass ceiling that needs to be addressed.
It does indeed, especially considering the fact that, in a 2013 London audit of art galleries, it was discovered that only 31% of the works being shown were by women. Hurst goes on to talk about why this gender disparity may have happened, relating it to sexism everywhere:
The disparity is being redressed because of the number of women that are making contemporary art, but I still think, like a lot of industries, the art industry suffers from the fact that if you take a break from working it’s perceived that you’re maybe not as serious about your profession as you should be.Women artists are no different to women everywhere, they have to juggle family commitments with their working practice. So I think they probably have to keep more plates spinning than their male counterparts.
That, coupled with a general view of the art itself may indeed have something to do with it. In any case, it’s great to see an institution like the Saatchi Gallery attempt to address the problem in this way. Hopefully, other large galleries will follow suit, in London and elsewhere.
Champagne Life runs from January 13 to March 6 at London’s Saatchi Gallery, and features work from emerging artists like Stephanie Quayle, Virgile Ittah, and Sigrid Holmwood among others.
Can’t get to London? There’s another all-female art show happening at the The Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Florida (home of Art Basel) called No Man’s Land. As Ittah points out to The Guardian: “I think it’s interesting that collectors who are the same generation are doing this at the same time. It shows that the identity of the artist is weaker in the work. Today, to be a woman artist is not as important. We are in a more genderless society.”
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