No Sign of Progress
Apparently, though, I'm not alone. Those masters of meta data at Chelsea Art Galleries [dot] com (who have recently had a very appealing face lift) have sifted through the text of gallery press releases and found some rather disturbing trends:
In a study of the language in more than 3,400 gallery press releases from 2006 and 2007, chelseaartgalleries.com found that women still are significantly underrepresented, and it appears to be getting worse.But wait...it gets worse, separating out the bluer chip galleries (as measured by those who are invited to participate in Art Basel and Miami Art Basel), the study found the disparity only increases the further up the food chain you go:
In the press releases sent out by Chelsea galleries in 2006, the words "his" and "he" were 48% more common than "her" and "she". The following year, 2007, the gap had grown to 64%. The same trend holds for the more specific word combination "his/her work". In 2006 "his work" beat "her work" with 38%, in 2007 the difference was 56%.
Does 2008 promise to be better? With only 282 press releases to analyze, it's still too early to tell, but it doesn't look like an improvement - currently the gap between his/him and her/she is 78%.
We looked at some 1,000 press releases, and the gender gap is significantly larger for these [blue chip] galleries. In 2006, it was 93%, and in 2007 it was 152% (e.g. he/his was mentioned 2.5 times as often as she/her). The difference for the galleries that don't go to the Art Basel fairs (and usually represent younger artists), is still there, but smaller: In 2006 it was 33% and in 2007 it was 41%.There's a fascinating chart with the study that indicates that whereas the word "art" was the most often found word among press releases in Chelsea in 2006, the word "his" ranked first in 2007. One could conclude from this that what's being sold in Chelsea is masculinity more so than art (OK, it's a stretch, but...). Clearly what's being shown more than anything else, though, are paintings. In 2006 the word "paintings" was the 14th most popular among the press releases studied, and in 2007 it was the 15th. No other medium even made the top 32.
What is there to do about the disparity though? I hate to open myself up as the proxy whipping post and suggest folks can beat up on me here for my part in it all, but I can't plead innocence either. I hope by posting this I make up a bit for the lopsided program this season. Things do get better next seaon, I swear.
Image at top: Jennifer Dalton, Art Guide (March/April, 2006), 2006, mixed media (map, colored pins, painted wooden frame), 9.5” x 10.5” x 1.25”