This is not a new story, but we should keep reminding each other that there are gender gaps in the arts. For me, reminders are necessary. There are thousands of things competing for my attention daily, including long To Do lists. So in order for me not to take things for granted or push them far into the back of my memory, I find these reminders to be helpful. I recently read an article, “Do critics paint women artists out the picture?” by a male art critic, Jonathan Jones, who discusses the role of critics in maintaining a glass ceiling for women in the arts. He says, “The bad guys are us, the critics. For art criticism is still a very male profession with very male values.”
While I very much appreciate his sense of accountability and acknowledgement that gender gaps are very real in the arts, I should hope and assume that he is aware that critics are only a part of a very broken system that is the Art World. His article, however, helps keep the issue at hand alive. It tells us that the art world is not a post-feminist arena, despite strides that women have made within it:
“There is still a glass ceiling when it comes to recognition. Women are no longer prevented by a guild system from actually training as artists. But they are consistently denied the ultimate accolades of fame and respect. There’s an image of supreme excellence in art that still, somehow, assumes a male bloodline of the greats.”
About a year ago, I wrote on this same issue after reviewing a gender-based show at a NYC gallery:
“In the review, I cited two websites that discuss the gender divide in the art world, which, when you think about, is a rather ancient trend (quite literally). What’s sad is how little has changed in several hundreds of years despite the efforts of feminists and any milestones that have been made. For example, the National Museum of Women in the Arts states that while ‘51% of visual artists today are women, only 5% of art on display in U.S. museums is made by women.’ This is something that, I assume, troubles most women artists and any others who are artists and don’t benefit from the centuries-old legacy and privilege of being male and of European descent in the art world. Try it: ask someone with little knowledge of art to name the artists they know and most likely they will name rockstars like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Rembrant.”
Do you have first hand experience with this glass ceiling based on your gender? What is your artist story? We are seeking written or video submissions for our upcoming online library, a social justice project, and would love to hear from you.