The Rise of Female Museum Directors.
She will be the first female director in the 228-year history of the Louvre. With such momentous news, we thought we’d take a look at the leadership in other institutions.
In a 2020 Forbes report, just 7.4% of CEO’s of the top 500 companies were female. It seems however, that at least in some creative sectors, women are charging forward. In a 2017 report from the Association of Art Museum Directors, 46.7% of Museums in the United States were run by women and according to the French Culture Ministry, about 67% of the country’s national museums are headed by women, an increase of 27% from 2019.
This trend seems to be somewhat of a slow, but necessary worldwide revolution, here is a handful of those women helping to make history:
- Museo moderno in Buenos Aires has been directed by Victoria Noorthoorn since 2013.
- Kataoka Mami has been with the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo since 2003, Deputy Director since 2018, and Director since 2020.
- Koyo Kouoh was appointed Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in 2019 in Cape Town.
- Elizabeth Ann Macgregor took up the directorship of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 1999.
- Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was appointed chair of the Qatar Museums, including MATHAF – Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha in 2006.
- Maria Balshaw has been director of Tate since 2017, along with three out of the four United Kingdom Tate museums now also being directed by women.
- At The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, the last 4 out of 7 directors have been women, currently leading the helm since 2005 is Thelma Golden, who we have featured in the past.
Although there has been a marked shift in the 21st century, there are also examples of female trailblazers carving the way long ago. Grace Morley was the first director of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, a position which began in 1935 and that she held for 23 years, and Hilla von Rebay, an abstract artist, co-founder and first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum serving from ‘39-‘52. Unfortunately, neither of these Museums have had a female director since, and it shows. Our data reports that female artists make up 19% of the collection at SFMOMA, and a mere 15% at the Guggenheim.
Though gender equality is slowly being achieved in these influential director positions, it is yet to trickle down to the artists. For all the museums mentioned, according to our collected data, there is only a 26% average of female artists collected or exhibited. Out of the group, the worst, and clearly well overdue for their first female President, was the Musée du Louvre, with an abysmal 10%, the best of the group was the Zeitz MOCAA with 39%. From worst to best, it’s still not enough, and this is only on the subject of equality observed within the constraints of simplified binary gender, there are mountains to be climbed to reach true and fair equality of representation of all minorities in the art world.
Every woman mentioned here has had a profoundly positive impact on their museums; by drastically increasing attendance, diversifying the program, acquiring important works, implementing more community outreach and encouraging new audiences, and that is something to be celebrated. Now let’s keep moving forward and work towards actual equality.
Let’s make history happen.
The Artfacts Team