Women Artists Still Face Discrimination

Check out this article about the discrimination women still face in the art world. Did you know that of the twelve prestigious Gagosian Galleries only one will exhibit work by women in 2012? How about the fact that 97% of the Met’s modern art was created by men, while 83% of the nudes are women?

Many people are unaware that women are underrepresented and underpaid in the art world. The problem is not that women’s work is not as good, it’s not that women are not promoting themselves as well, and it’s certainly not that there are less of us. The problem is that so many of the people running our museums and galleries are biased against women, and push men’s work to the forefront while dismissing work by women.

It’s important that we know this. Because things will not change until we at least acknowledge the problem.

Here are a few museums and galleries that showcase women artists. Take a look if you can; they share the work of some incredible artists:

National Museum of Women in the Arts: The only major museum in the world dedicated to women’s artwork. This is one of my favorite museums. Definitely visit if you’re in the DC area!

Woman Made Gallery: A Chicago gallery with the mission of ensuring equal placement of women in the art world. It’s a beautiful space. They’re currently accepting submissions for their “Inspired By… Celebrating Illinois Women Artists and Artisans” exhibit.

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: An exhibition and education environment dedicated to feminist art. Their site has helped me with quite a few research papers!

Florida Museum for Women Artists: A museum dedicated to identifying and promoting women in the arts.

Rutgers Institute for Women and Art: Educating about women in the arts and exhibiting work by women artists, the IWA attempts to include women in the mainstream art world and historical record. Also check out their Feminist Art Project.

Feel free to comment if you know of any women-oriented art programs, galleries, or museums you feel should be included in this list!

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8 thoughts on “Women Artists Still Face Discrimination

  1. lilithrose76 says:

    Reblogged this on freedomfrompornculture and commented:
    Another example of under-representation and nude representation of women, while neglecting the talent of artists due to their femaleness. including a great little list of galleries that do support female artists.

  2. Please print the truth… is not all about bashing Men

    • Hello Mick,

      I think that if you read this post (and the linked article) you’ll see that nobody is “bashing Men”. This is about equal representation of women and men in the art world, which I’d hope you would agree is a worthwhile goal.

      Secondly, I did not approve your other comment which appears to be a long list (copied and pasted) of women artists. It’s great that you’re researching the subject! The comment is incredibly long and contains no original content, so it seems easier to link to the site you’re copying from. Feel free to check it out here, folks!

      While this is a very impressive list of female painters, for every woman on that list there are innumerable amounts of male painters. No one is saying that there are no women in the art world. We are saying that women are underrepresented in the art world. Additionally, the women on this list were often treated far worse than their male counterparts (Being paid less for their work, treated more harshly by critics, restricted from certain areas of art, etc).

      I would encourage you to read more posts on this site, or to do a little bit of research on some of the women artists on that list. I think you would find it enlightening!

  3. Matt W says:

    It is interesting that in a society that has taken equality to almost draconian levels, gender divides still remain in some areas. I think it’s the same for literature, the majority of literary prizes are awarded to men, and there doesn’t appear to be a logical reason for it.

    It’s a shame that so few female artists get space in galleries, hopefully the numbers will even out eventually. One minor point I have is that I don’t think it can be taken as an ‘inequality’ in a negative sense that most of the nudes portrayed in art are female. I would take it more as a compliment to the female form, which traditionally is more aesthetically pleasing than the male form. I think if you ask most artist (male or female) they would agree with that sentiment. Or maybe I’m just asking the wrong group of people? 🙂

    • The imbalance between male and female nudes is one of those things so ingrained within our culture that we tend to view it as natural. We’re surrounded by images of women starting at a very young age without seeing similar images of men. It becomes natural for us to view women as the appropriate sex to depict in our work.

      It’s a common argument that women’s bodies are simply more pleasing to the eye than men’s bodies. I don’t think that this is necessarily true. First of all, there are eras of art in which male bodies are considered to be the ideal (For example, ancient Greek and Roman statuary). Secondly, this is largely accepted because we imagine the audience for artwork to be straight men (and historically, most work has been created by straight men). This is anecdotal evidence, but I know quite a few ladies who prefer working from male nudes (Although the majority of their work is often of female nudes. Access to more female models contributes to this imbalance. Teacher’s preference plays a large role in our work as well. I have one straight, male professor who likes to tell us to “put a naked woman in” whenever we have empty space in our work.) Thirdly, nude women are somewhat of a tradition in the art world (odalisques and whatnot) while nude men still aren’t. Students, particularly, tend to draw from already existing works and conventions for subject matter.

      If you’re interested in learning more I would recommend reading Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, in which she explains the concept of the male gaze and how women are looked at while men look. It’s kind of a long read, so if you’d like, Wikipedia has a pretty good summary.

      Thank you for commenting! I agree that there is a very similar situation in literature. Gender representations in both fields are incredibly problematic, which is truly disappointing in this day and age.

      • canbebitter says:

        just replying to say I love this comment! people are certainly socialised to view the female form as more aesthetically pleasing but I believe this is a nurture over nature thing. e.g. privilege of the (straight) male gaze, women are seen to be less threatening/strong, women are taught to be more passive, myth that women are less ‘visual’, etc. etc.

      • Tom says:

        Melissa, I agree with Canbebitter and I would like to thank you for your comment about the imbalance between male and female nudes. Recently I have been looking for images of naked men (paintings, sculpture and photos) and I found many such images that I feel are aesthetically pleasing. I suspect that most although not all were done by gay men, but that does not make them any less pleasing to me. Whenever I hear or read someone making the claim that the female form is more aesthetically pleasing than the male I think of Michelangelo’s “David.” To me the “David” is a very aesthetically pleasing work of art in many different ways. Along with looking for images of the male nude I have also been looking for nude images of large women, women with dark complexions, older women and disabled women.

        It seems to me, based on the proportions of different nude images that I have found that many people, including many artists, feel the only appropriate nudes are those of young, thin, light complexion women that are not disabled. I like looking at nudes of young, thin, light complexion, non-disabled women, but there are also nudes of people who do not fit into that group that I like to look at and I feel that one does not have to fit into that group in order to be seen, at least by me, aesthetically pleasing or to be an appropriate subject for a work of art.

        I tend to write too much so I will stop now, but I do want to thank you for the link to “Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.”


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