It never really occurred to me in setting up Cotton On MCR that me being a woman had any input into how this business would grow. But there are still tons of reports about how women, in certain careers and institutes, are still not doing ‘as well’ as men. There has been a huge rise recently in promoting and encouraging women as bosses and entrenpenurs etc, and I have only recently started to join groups that help women in their career, groups like Noi Club, Female Founders Fair etc. I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on some of their blogs and websites which is great! Knowing that there are these platforms that help women does make a difference for females trying to find their way in a new/in their own business. But is there equivalent platforms for men? Probably, yes, but definitely not as many. Do men even need it? They are already leaders in a shit-ton of businesses anyway. How does all this push in terms of the female boss relate to art and the art institute? Art is a raw talent, a talent that is genderless, so everything in the art world should be equal already right? Well, lets see.
I read a fact recently from The Art Market 2019, that ‘Only 10% of galleries have 50% or more female artists.’
Let’s just take a second to evaluate that. That means that only 10% of the worlds galleries have majority female artists on display, and it doesn’t say by what majority either. It could be just a slight increase over 50%. This baffles me. There are so many great and established artists out there, as well as new and up-coming ones. Why do our galleries not reflect the equality in art? I recently went to a talk at Manchester Art Gallery about Women in Art, and the overall thing confused me. It focused mainly on the historical side of women in the artwork. Those beautiful, pale, princess, duchess, goddesses etc. Those wealthy and royal women, poised and delicate. The majority of the talk was about how women were perceived by male artists. When we did go on to talk about women artists, of course this only really reflected artists of the contemporary era, and there were hardly any on display in Manchester Art Gallery! I think we looked at two contemporary artists from this century that are currently on display. Two!
I spoke photographer Samantha Jagger about this statistic, who has an exhibition coming (17th May) which is solely about females. ‘Loosen Up‘ is a series of images taken in Manchester women’s toilets on nights out. Samantha said;
‘That’s a shocking figure. Despite art being progressive in many ways, it’s disheartening to hear that platforms can be biased based on genders.’
She goes on to ask her about Manchester and the females she has met in this series; ‘Despite toilets seeming like a private space, I’ve seen it is a place for sharing: Stories, tampons, advice, condoms, toilet roll, compliments, it’s all going on. It provides that five minutes of escapism in all sorts of situations. Across Manchester I’ve noticed many acts of kindness, such as donation boxes for period poverty which is great.’
She touches on a good point here which links back to my intro – females seem to be out there to share! (and of course this whole article is talking generally – massively). But from my experience and from being part of these Facebook groups and attending events like Ladies Wine and Dine, we are all about sharing. We want to do well and get to the top, but we want others to do well and join us there! We are open to sharing hints and tips, advice and stories. And that is a great community to be a part of.
Perhaps this also shows a difference in male artists – and before I say any more, again I just want to illiterate that I am massively generalising differences here! I watched a short video following the research done by The Art Market 2019 to which it said; ‘Male artists have more courage to market themselves.’ Perhaps this links to being a little selfish in their work, maybe not sharing as much as the females in the industry do? Do us women still feel like we have to be gracious and quiet and timid, and not shout about ourselves, not blow our own trumpet? Think about some leading female artist – Tracy Emin and Yayoi Kusama are great examples. They smack you in the face with confidence and determination. They market themselves very well!
Another artist that is leading the way for female role models is Louise Bourgeois. Her giant steel sculpture ‘Spider’ (1997), is going up for auction as part of The Christies Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. With an estimated value of $25 – $35 million, she could be up there as one of the most expensive pieces of art sold by a woman artist. However, this is miles behind that of the most expensive male artist – a Leonardo Divinci piece which sold for $450 million. So there is still some way to go!
Another fact I read from 2016 states that ‘63% of undergraduates studying creative arts and design in 2016 were female, according to UCAS. In contrast, 29% of artists represented by London’s major galleries were female.’
I doubt very much that this statistic has changed in the past couple of years. It makes you wonder, what happens between studying art (being the leading force in the schools and universities) and when your studies are over? Where have all these female artists gone and/or why aren’t they being represented?
I guess, this drive of women doing it for themselves, does push me more than I thought. With my work, I tried so hard to get a job in the arts world, and wasn’t getting anywhere, which led me to creating my own thing with Cotton On Mcr. Using the groups and female led events does massively help, not only for a bit of confidence boost – seeing others do it shows you that you can do it too – but it is also great for networking and meeting new people.
Although I am all about equality, not just between men and women, but as a whole, race, religion, sexuality – but this it shouldn’t mean a god-damn thing when it comes to art. The more diverse the artists, the more diverse the arts! The best artist should be displayed. My concern is what we have to do to change this? Who is responsible for evening out the gaps and how would they do that? You know those forms you have to fill out that ask for your ethnicity, (usually on a job application or something government based) I hate those. But I get why the government has bought them in, to try and make establishments include a larger diversity of people, to make everywhere equal etc. However, I as a mixed-race woman, I would hate to think that my skin colour and/or gender – which is completely random and I have no control of – would give me some kind of advantage for something. In terms of job applications, and gallery spaces and artists, the best artist should be shown, and the best person should get the job, no matter what their gender. So although I raise some serious points here about in-equality in art, I actually have no bloody clue what we can do about it.
So I put it to you – do you think woman just need more encouragement, to shout louder so we are heard more? Do you think galleries need to start monitoring their displays to force them to show equal numbers of men’s and women’s work? Do you think things are fine as they are? Let me know!
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