Sexism, gender stereotypes, inclusion and exclusion, proportionate representation and equal wages are all issues that have been central to feminist debates since the 1970s. As of today in 2017, equality has still not been achieved for women in the art world. The disparity is prevalent when it comes to representation in international exhibitions, both public and commercial galleries, including the permanent collection and solo-exhibitions, press coverage together with auction prices. Guerrilla Girls is an anonymous group of radical feminist, female artists devoted to fighting this inequality. Armed with gorilla masks and a sense of humour – in name of the “consciousness of the art world” -they took New York by storm.
Their warfare consists of posters, cards and other cheaply produced leaflets, spreading on the q.t., throughout the art world. In 1985 they made an infamous poster to illustrate the female exclusion in the art scene of New York by showing the amount of female solo exhibitions by the Guggenheim, Metropolitan, MoMA and Whitney in New York. The outcome constitutes respectively zero, zero, one and zero. A sequel followed in the same format in 2015. The Guerrilla Girls revealed that the position of the female artist in 30 years has not been improved that much. The score this time was one, one, two and one. In 1986 the Guerrilla Girls made a poster with the straightforward statement: “It is even worse in Europe” after finding out about the low exposure of female artists on that continent. The question arises to what extent could this relative lower amount of exposure still be detected?
To do so, I made a comparison of solo-exhibitions of female artists between the MoMA and Tate Modern. I will cut straight to the point. The past three years, from the shows that were on view from January 2014 up until July 2016 the ratio female artist solo exhibitions in comparison to male artists in the MoMA has been 13,89% and Tate Modern 46,67%. This is a significant discrepancy. Perhaps, it is misleading shorthand to refer to these two musea as a token for two continents; it does show a significant difference. If we take these two musea as a central reference point, it is not even worse in Europe.