International Women’s Day: Gender gap in the art industry

World Today

Women tend to be under-represented in most industries. Stock markets, politics and board rooms come to mind- but the world of the arts seems to be overlooked. And gender imbalances there are also pretty grim.

CGTN’s Maria Galang reports.

Picasso, Da Vinci, Remrandt. When one is asked to name great artists through history – these names usually come to mind. But ask someone to name female artists, and the question poses more of a challenge. For centuries, art – has been a male-dominated field, and even though there’s a bigger presence of women in art today, opportunities seem to tilt towards their male peers.

“To be able to train as an artist to make your way in the world it was very difficult for a woman to be a professional artist particularly with societal expectations which continue even today,” Kim Jones, curator of 19th century paintings, U.S. National Gallery of Art said.

As in many other professions, women are misrepresented in the arts, too. Over half of the visual artists in the world are women, yet they earn far less than men. And, when it comes to the world’s top 100 artists – ranked by sales – only two women made the list.

In 2014, Georgia O’Keefe sold a painting for almost $45 million, setting a record for an artwork by a female artist. But that’s nothing compared to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold in 2017 for $450 million – the highest price ever achieved for artwork sold at auction. Work by Mary Cassatt, a popular painter in the 19th Century, also fetches a lot less than her fellow impressionist Claude Monet at auctions.

The past can’t be changed but some galleries today have launched social media campaigns to change mindsets and institutions like the National Gallery of Art have made more space for women in their collections – not just to fill a quota – but because they feel they deserve the recognition.

Launching social media campaigns could push women to take a bigger bite out of the $45 billion dart market. But art collectors will still have the last word.

“A large number of the collectors continue to be men, men still control the bulk of wealth and they can patronize, they can collect, whereas many women don’t have necessarily the means or they choose to patronize in other ways,” Jones said.

It may have a hashtag now, but it’s been a clarion call for women in the art for centuries now. The question is: at what point will they be heard.

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Kim Jones of the U.S. National Gallery of Art on why re-telling the history of female artists is crucial to bridging the gender gap in the industry.