If you ever feel like women get every opportunity that men get, just have a look at the art exhibitions taking place in London this autumn. That’s what I’ve been doing this week, and let me tell ya, it’s a serious sausage fest.
There are a lot of dudes – I mean a LOT – and the near total lack of female artists is absolutely fucking shocking. Forgive the swearing, but Jesus H. Christ on a lady’s step-through bike: at the major museums and galleries, there are only two shows dedicated to work by female artists between September and November. TWO! And – irony of fucking ironies – one of them is by the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist art collective, and it’s a show at the Whitechapel looking at (Gasp! Shock!) how shit museums are at showing art by women and non-western artists (that’s another rant in itself).
Sure, women appear in various group shows – three of the four Turner Prize nominees are women – and there's some good stuff at Studio Voltaire and the Camden Arts Centre, but realistically they barely make a dent in the autumnal art landscape. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see loads of these exhibitions, but museums and galleries should see this schedule below, notice that they have collectively completely ignored female artists for a whole season and feel seriously ashamed.
This isn’t a new thing in the art world, and it’s not just a London problem. Art funding body the Freelands Foundation found that only 25 percent of the most prestigious shows in London in 2014/15 went to women. The Art Newspaper reported that only 27 percent of the 590 major solo shows at 70 institutions in America between 2007 and 2013 were by women. Ask yourself, do women really only make up a quarter of the artistic landscape? No, they don’t.
You may want to come back at this with ‘oh but maybe there are just more male artists’ or ‘maybe the male artists are better’. Well there aren’t and they are not.
Yes, pre-late nineteenth century the overwhelming majority of artists were men, that’s just a historical fact. But for contemporary art, there’s literally no reason for there not to be some freakin’ balance.
Things are changing. This summer saw major shows by Mona Hatoum and Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern. The museum’s new director Francis Morris has made it a priority to address the imbalance between male and female artists in major museums. There’s just been a major prize announced for mid-career female artists, too. So things are getting a little better and many institutions are currently buying and commissioning art by women, but there’s still clearly something majorly wrong if you can spend two months going from museum to museum in London and only see a single major exhibition by a female artist. That’s so nuts. I don’t have the answer here, but we need to be asking the question. And London needs to do better.
Major solo shows, Sep-Nov 2016
Wifredo Lam at Tate Modern
Sep 14–Jan 8
Peter Wächtler at Chisenhale
Sep 14–Dec 11
James Richards at ICA Lower and Upper Gallery
Sep 21–Nov 20
William Kentridge at Whitechapel Gallery
Sep 21–Jan 15
Bedwyr Williams at Barbican, The Curve
Sep 29–Jan 8
Marc Camille Chaimovicz at Serpentine
Sep 29–Nov 20
Bonnie Camplin @ Camden Arts Centre
30 Sep – 8 Jan 2017
Guerrilla Girls at Whitechapel Gallery
Oct 1–Mar 5
Adriaen van de Velde: Master of the Dutch Golden Age at Dulwich Picture Gallery
Oct 12–Jan 15
Rodin & Dance: The Essence of Movement @ The Courtauld Gallery
Oct 20–Jan 22
Paul Nash at Tate Britain
Oct 26–Mar 5
Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans at The Royal Academy
Oct 29–Jan 29
Picasso Portraits at The National Portrait Gallery
Oct 6–Feb 5
Philippe Parreno, Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern
Oct 4–Apr 2
Abstract Expressionism at The Royal Academy
Sep 24–Jan 2
The Turner Prize at Tate Britain
Sep 27–Jan 2
Beyond Caravaggio at The National Gallery
Oct 12–Jan 15