Women in the Arts: How can we give them “a genuine shot at history”?

Yayoi Kusama: one of few women to have had a major retrospective at Tate Modern. Photograph: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images via guardian.co.uk

As CWILA and VIDA work hard to compile lists “to count the rates of publication between women and men in many of our writing world’s most respected literary outlets” and “address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing in our current culture”, I came across this article:

Women in art: why are all the ‘great’ artists men? [guardian.co.uk]

How many female artists featured in the top 100 auction sales, ranked by price, last year? Gemma Rolls-Bentley, an independent curator, decided to find out. One day, not long ago, she sat down with the 2012 list, “and spent a couple of hours writing M next to the artists. I got to the end and there wasn’t a single F.” Some of those artists were alive, some were dead, all were highly valued – considered “great” or “genius” – and all were men.

*sigh* And…

…83% of the artists in Tate Modern were men, along with 70% of those in the Saatchi Gallery.

Yeesh. And…

…she was also struck by the low proportion of public art created by women. In east London, of 43 public works of art, 14% were created by women. In Westminster and the City of London, of 386 public works of art, the proportion created by women is just 8%.

Seriously?! Ugh! And…

Given that many of those commissions date back years, these numbers reflect women’s marginalisation in art history – it’s often estimated that only around 5% of the work featured in major permanent collections worldwide is by women. The National Gallery in London, for instance, contains more than 2,300 works; an information request made by the women’s activist Tim Symonds at the start of 2011 revealed that only 11 of the artists in that enormous collection are women.

Gaaaaah! Where is the disconnect? Where are women getting lost along the way?

So here’s my question…

How can I, as the leader of a community that includes artists & writers & musicians & actors & creative professionals of all kinds, help change this situation?

  • My writing team is largely women and Canada Arts Connect Magazine is open to submissions.
  • Canada Arts Connect has plans to launch a mentorship program which will see experienced creative professionals helping emerging ones and will hopefully be able to encourage/support more women.
  • My own writing has often explored women in the arts/creative professions.
  • I’m a member of CWILA (you can be too!) and I do my best to spread the word.

But…what else? The article suggests “to encourage the art world to consider gender balance much more frequently and freely.”

Ideas on how to do that? Suggestions very much welcome!