Guerrilla Girls

Art Free
Guerrilla Girls
© Guerrilla Girls

The Guerrilla Girls are some of the art world’s most creative complainers, and for over 30 years now, they have been handing America’s galleries their arses on a platter. For their show at the Whitechapel Gallery, they’ve turned their attentions to Europe.

This entire exhibition is based on a survey they sent out to 400 art institutions across 29 countries on the continent. In it, they demand stats for their representation of female artists, those who are gender non-conforming and artists of colour. Spoiler: it doesn’t go well.

As the Guerrilla Girls announce on a banner on the front of the Whitechapel building, ‘only one quarter’ of those contacted responded (disappointingly, the Serpentine and the Saatchi Gallery were among the no-shows). The completed questionnaires are pasted onto the gallery wall, filled with the urgently scrawled handwriting of gallery directors. Put your contacts in, because there’s a whole lot of reading required for this show.

Colourful posters pull out some of the best responses; when asked if it was the first time they’d collected such stats, Manchester Art Gallery replied: ‘No, we talk about these issues a lot’ – but the Guerrillas point out that their collection is still ‘80 percent male and 85 percent white’. The average representation of women artists was a pathetic 22 percent. One of the few glimmers of hope was Poland, where that figure was 28 percent and all but one of the responding galleries had a female director. 

  Informative as all this is, there’s not a great deal going on here visually: before entering the show, there’s a brief video of old news clips and Guerrilla Girls interview items, but you have to stand awkwardly in a corridor to watch it. These artists are brilliant orators, and a stronger audio-visual element would have hammered the their message home. After 15 minutes of scanning printouts, it starts to feel a little dry.

But the group wanted the numbers to speak for themselves, and it’s not hard to see why. These are the galleries that spoon-feed us our art, and shape our definition of what’s ‘worth’ seeing. These are the museums that curate our visual history through their collections, and we can’t afford not to question them when our history is rewritten as 80 percent male and 85 percent white. If it weren’t for the Guerrilla Girls, they’d get to keep on pretending those arses were squeaky clean. 

By: Katie McCabe

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Tastemaker

Not exactly an art exhibition: more a visual presentation of the Guerrilla Girls research about the state of European museums and galleries concerning the space dedicated (allowed?!) to female artists. Super interesting, and most definitively depressing, the results are (somehow surprisingly) still really bad. But as they always do, this is still presented with some humour, including a subtle but welcoming room for self-criticism (the comments made by some of the museums’ and galleries’ directors are specially interesting). The room (and hall with a video) in Whitechapel Gallery is pretty small, but it’s worth going with time and patience to read beyond the posters. Actually, there is a copy of all the answered questionnaires, definitely worth a (not so) quick reading.

tastemaker

Whitechapel gallery

What I love about London is the amount of things we have to do. I think it's really important to support and visit the smaller galleries and places around our wonderful city. My friend really wanted to go visit the Guerrilla Girls exhibition and after a little research I was interested in reading more. The Guerrilla Girls sent a survey to 383 galleries around Europe to try and establish how diverse the exhibitions are in galleries around Europe with a specific focus on women and their art exhibitions. I won't give much more away as you can read the actual answers from the galleries that replied (only 101 responded) it's only one small exhibition and I throughly recommend having a walk around the gallery as a whole.

I was particularly keen on the exhibition on the ground level by

Alicja Kwade: Medium Median which the artist created a moving mobile structure which represents our relationship with space with 24 electronic devices which link to live gps from space.

Overall a nice afternoon feeling the culture and seeing for myself people trying to make true changes which we can be involved with.


A breath of fresh air. There's nothing elitist or formalist about this exhibition. It is a plain document of the current non-inclusive situatuion of the european art world. Here, the Guerrilla Girls go beyond gender and also question the position of race and sexuality within European art institutions. The project is comprised of questionnaires that were sent to institutions across Europe asking questions such as "What is the percentage of works by female artists in your collection?". It is interesting to see how the different art instututions react to such questioning. Some reply with seriousness, others with contempt and some do not even reply. The exhibition is small and straigh forward. It is free and I believe that every art lover should definitely see it.

tastemaker

Small but very informative. A must see. Everyone will be shocked with the results of the researches and work from them. Really interesting.