A few weeks ago we sent out a newsletter featuring artists that had exhibited 300 times or more together. In the midst of assessing the data, we committed a pretty drastic oversight. There we were, so focused on the names, ages and relationships shared between the artists, that we completely missed what was staring us right in the face: where were all the female artists in this list?
Look, we know you know, that we know, that we all know, that women are underrepresented in the art world, this frustrating news is by no means new. But the thing about data (and one of the myriad of reasons why it’s so darn interesting, particularly in a creative industry) is that it translates information in a way that creates clear insight. Here, what the list highlighted plainly (and what we originally overlooked) was the extent to which female artists are exhibited less.
Just to provide the data for today we had to alter our initial query from artists who had exhibited over 300 times together, to over 100 times together instead. In contrast, the highest number of exhibitions together featuring men was 903 with Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro, that number is over four times as much as the highest number of exhibitions together with women, at 218 with Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin.
We highlight the number of exhibitions with these artists, not to compare the artists individually to each other, but to look at the big picture instead. Yes, Picasso and Miro were born much earlier than Sherman and Goldin, allowing more time for their work to be exhibited, and for their infamy to grow posthumously, but what of the women that were born in the same time period as these two men, that were not afforded the same liberties? Who would these lists have consisted of then?
Cindy Sherman + Nan Goldin: 218
Cindy Sherman + Louise Lawler: 172
Cindy Sherman + Barbara Kruger: 172
Cindy Sherman + Jenny Holzer: 167
Cindy Sherman + Louise Bourgeois: 165
Cindy Sherman + Rosemarie Trockel: 148
Cindy Sherman + Sherrie Levine: 143
Cindy Sherman + Laurie Simmons: 127
Cindy Sherman + Diane Arbus: 123
Cindy Sherman + Kiki Smith: 121
Cindy Sherman + Sophie Calle: 116
Cindy Sherman + Marina Abramovic: 112
Cindy Sherman + Ana Mendieta: 107
Louise Bourgeois + Kiki Smith: 197
Louise Bourgeois + Jenny Holzer: 130
Louise Bourgeois + Marina Abramovic: 130
Louise Bourgeois + Rosemarie Trockel: 120
Louise Bourgeois + Yayoi Kusama: 119
Louise Bourgeois + Tracey Emin: 111
Louise Bourgeois + Marlene Dumas: 110
Louise Bourgeois + Mona Hatoum: 107
Louise Bourgeois + Nan Goldin: 102
Rosemarie Trockel + Isa Genzken: 130
Rosemarie Trockel + Jenny Holzer: 108
Rosemarie Trockel + Katharina Fritsch: 107
Rosemarie Trockel + Candida Höfer: 106
Valie Export + Cindy Sherman: 102
Valie Export + Martha Rosler: 101
Jenny Holzer + Barbara Kruger: 185
Nan Goldin + Diane Arbus: 103
Candida Höfer + Cindy Sherman: 103
Marlene Dumas + Cindy Sherman: 104
Louise Lawler + Sherrie Levine: 123
Sarah Lucas + Tracey Emin: 104
Carrie Mae Weems + Lorna Simpson: 107
Lyubov Popova + Alexandra Exter: 103
Not surprisingly, a majority of the artists listed here emerged into the art world during or after the second wave of feminism- a time when women were finally beginning to be afforded their deserved recognition and therefore exhibited more.
It also explains why a majority of the artists listed here are still with us (in contrast to the male dominant list), only Louise Bourgeois, Diane Arbus, Lyubov Popova and Alexandra Exter, who were born in earlier periods are now deceased. Ana Mendieta should still be here.
In this list, there is yet another issue staring back at us. Of all the artists listed above, only two are Black and one is Latina. Yes, even more barriers in place to be exhibited.
That’s the thing about data, it shows us what’s really there and hence highlights what’s not. Being able to see these inequalities so clearly is one of the first steps towards changing the system. Paving the way for a more equitable future, where these results will hopefully be but a distant unpleasant memory.
Let’s make history happen.
The Artfacts Team