Women as artists

Another step towards gender parity

No Man’s Land is the title of an exhibition organized in 2015 in Miami by influential collectors Don and Mera Reuben. The exhibition showcased the work of about 100 women artists, including such leading artists as Yayoi Kusama, Marlene Dumas and Cecily Brown.

The purpose of the exhibition was to correct a glaring imbalance in the art world. A 2015 study by Maura Reilly confirms the slogan coined in 1970 by the Guerrilla Girls: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art?” According to Maura Reilly’s report, only 29% of solo exhibitions organized between 2007 and 2014 at the Whitney Museum were devoted to women artists, 25% at Tate Modern, 20% at MoMA, 16% at the Pompidou Center.

But for some museums, this was progress. For example, the Guggenheim Museum, New York devoted 14% of its exhibitions to the work of women artists, but in 2000 they did not hold a single such exhibition!

Eliminate gaps

The gender gap in the art world is clear: women are underrepresented in galleries, permanent museums and temporary exhibitions. All of this results in less media coverage and less market demand, which in turn results in significantly lower auction prices compared to similar works by men.

In 2015, when Maura Reilly’s study was published, the highest auction price for a work by a living artist was the $7.1 million paid for Yayoi Kusama’s White No. 28 (1960) at Christie’s in New York, the highest price for The work of a living male artist was $58.4 million, the price of Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange) sculpture, also sold at Christie’s.

The difference was more than $50 million. In the years since the publication of the report, there have been positive changes: in 2016, a number of high-profile exhibitions were held at MoMA and the Saatchi Gallery, and a number of initiatives aimed at adjusting the gender composition of museum collections, such as the MoMA Women’s Project ( MWP).

Women have won a number of awards at the highest level: the Imperial Prize in 2016 was awarded to Annette Messager, the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale in 2017 to the pioneer of feminist performance Karoly Schniemann.

Seven women entered the top 100 most successful artists

The difference in prices for the work of women and men, of course, is reflected in the volume of the auction turnover – as a result, only seven artists entered the top 100 most successful artists in the market for 2000-2019.

Cindy Sherman, the top performer, is ranked 25th in the world rankings, but her performance is much lower than that of the 24 leading men: Sherman’s auction turnover is only a seventh of that of Jeff Koons, and her auction record is 13 times lower.

Jenny Saville and Cecily Brown

The growing market share of some female artists goes hand in hand with their recognition in the Art History Hall of Fame. The market naturally followed these changes. Completely absent from the auction catalogs in 2000, Jenny Saville’s works are now welcome guests on the market.

She attracted huge attention in 2018 when her painting Propped (1992) sold at Sotheby’s London for £9.5 million ($12.5 million), making her the most expensive living female artist.

One of the biggest market breakthroughs in the last 20 years is the success of Cecily Brown. She overtook Cindy Sherman in the auction turnover rankings for 2017 and 2018, becoming an important figure in the contemporary art market.

In 2018, her work “Suddenly Last Summer” (1999) set an important record – $6.8 million, compared to $1 million, which was paid for her work in 2010. The Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney, the Metropolitan, the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery can congratulate themselves on acquiring the work of this superb artist before her prices hit the current threshold.

New generation

In the new generation of artists, women are represented much more widely. Tauba Auerbach (born 1981) stands out among them, ranked 120th in the world auction ranking of contemporary artists (2000-2019), although her auction debut took place only in 2010. Over the years, she has had about 100 exhibitions in the US and Europe, and her work is in increasing demand at auction.

Her breakthrough came in 2014 when three acrylics brought her new auction records, each selling for more than $1 million, ranging from $1.5 million to $1.9 million. In the 1990s, this could only happen to an established artist. not younger than 50 years old.

However, the rise in prices for Auerbach’s work happened too quickly, and since then the market for her work has declined somewhat due to the fact that a number of her excellent works did not find buyers because the initial price was too high.