An Artist's Perspective: Gender Equality In The Arts

Sep 26, 2018

If an artist is influenced by other artists, and I believe we all are, I would say that my biggest influences over the last decade have been painters and sculptors who happen to be women. 

I always return to study Agnes Martin, Mary Heilmann, Eva Hesse, Marlene Dumas, and Joan Mitchell when I need to dig deep.

Many books over the years explain how women have been absolutely cheated out of fame and fortune in the art markets. So many reasons delve into the psychological aspects of woman versus man. And most have been written by men. But I have always been hungry for a reason or reasons that give hard definition as to how and why this occurred in the marketplace.  I found my answers in a new book titled Ninth Street Women that highlights the careers of Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell.

The book explains that Grace Hartigan’s world auction record for a painting is $435,000.00, while the record price for a Willem de Kooning is $66.3 million. Now consider that in the 1950’s, the two artist’s prices were comparable. During this very period of a supremely brisk economy, Fortune magazine published an article highlighting art as a fabulous investment, listing the hot new artists of the day. This list included not one female artist.

Gallery owners latched on to this and failed to properly represent their female artists, and the value of their works plummeted. Today, the number of men being represented by galleries and museum collections far exceeds that of women. This was all driven by men, and unfortunately, nothing has changed.

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