Since its’ inception, the visual Arts’ have always placed women at the forefront. However, this was rarely a positive thing as women were always represented through the perspective of the ‘male gaze’. This is mainly due to the fact that women were primarily painted by men. Today, the presence of women behind the brush continues to grow, but the question remains: has any progress regarding the gender disparities in the Art industry been made?
In order to explore this question, one has to examine the differences in terms of representation and wage gap. By examining 108, 654 artworks produced since 1999 with price listings on Artsy, the 2019 Art Market report found that men across the world dominated the number of artworks produced since then. In North America, women contributed to only 37% of the artworks produced since 1999. In Africa and Oceania, women made up 36%, whilst in Europe 28%, and Asia 28%. Women in Latin America only make up of 26%.
To investigate the wage gap, the report examines the median prices by gallery group. Group 1 encompasses gallery’s which have an engagement with the international art market. Women’s work was found to have a median price listing 27% less than men. In group 2, which comprises of galleries that primarily operate in single countries and exhibit at both international and national art fairs, women were at 30% less. Galleries in group 3 and 4 includes distinguished regional and local galleries. In group 3, women’s’ works were priced 28% less, and group 4 16%.
What these numbers ultimately say is that art produced by women continue to be viewed as less valuable than artworks produced by men. This can be dissected to the Art historical canon. By that I mean that the visual Art canon consists primarily of men, and so men were historically given access to tools and schools of Art whilst women are only recently gaining the same sorts of access. Therefore, since men have always had access to this industry, men were given a head start. The same can be said across all industries where women are just now gaining access into. Though, no matter how it’s described it can simply be understood as cold, pure misogyny. The founder of ArtPrice, a global art database which houses and auctions over 700,000 artists, Thierry Ehrmann stated that women account for only 8% of the global art market. This is a number which has doubled globally within the past 20 years.
In order to promote female artists, the multinational fine arts company, Sotheby’s, organised an online initiative this year. This was a virtual exhibition titled ‘(Women) artists’ and took place May 20th – May 27th. It aimed to celebrate “contributions by women to art history across 400 years”. This statement was met with major backlash with many viewing the exhibition as a form of discrimination. A backhanded initiative if you will. By labelling women’s work in Art History as a simple “contribution“, the exhibition ultimately reduces it to a mere ‘contribution’ instead of recognizing their place. The word ‘contribution’ connotes the idea that the art industry is a man’s space where women can donate their efforts to. When an exhibition showcases artworks by men, why is it never explicitly stated ‘MAN ART’? Somehow art produced by men is viewed as authentic whilst art by women is viewed as some sort of remixed version of the true authentic ‘Art’.
Art is the human expression. By excluding about half of the population in an industry, we ultimately silence them. We silence their stories, we devalue their expression, and that is not what the Art industry should be about. We at Victory Art are proud to say that out of the 87 artists we represent, 59 of these talented individuals are women. As an art company, we make it our mission to contribute to the global fight against exclusion and misogyny. Victory Art is about breaking stereotypes and building new perspectives, and we’re excited to be one of the many striving towards inclusivity and diversity.
Written by Melissa Aslan
Victory Art Gallery