Guerrilla Girls, Do women have to be naked…?, 1989
As today is International Women’s Day, it seems like the right time to take a look at women’s place in the art world. It’s the twenty-first century, there are lots of women artists now, right? Well yes. Up to a point. Tacita Dean’s work is in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern at the moment and the big exhibition is of the work of Yayoi Kusama. Perhaps all’s right with the world? Clearly, it wasn’t ever thus.
In 1989 the Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of women artists and the self-styled ‘conscience of the art world’, conducted an audit of the work on display on the Modern Art sections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The statistics really weren’t good. Only 5% of the artists were female but 85% of the nudes were. No matter how familiar we are with art history and the dominance of male artists, that’s still a pretty shocking figure, especially since the group had specifically restricted their attention to the modern art sections where things might be expected to be a bit less bad. Surely by now things have changed?