Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gender Representation at the 2008 Biennale of Sydney

In the previous post, I discussed the gender (in)equality in Hobart art galleries. In this post, I want to draw attention to the quite incredible differences in gender representation at this year’s Biennale. I counted just 38 female artists to the 116 male artists in the Artist Index of the 2008 Biennale of Sydney guide. In fact, as Bec Dean points out in her Column 2 article, 22 per cent of the artists are also dead male artists – a similar number to the number of women, dead or alive.

The director of this year’s Biennale – Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev addresses the issue of gender quotas in her catalogue essay, but argues that it isn’t relevant anymore:

“I have no quota for gender participation; however, being one of the last of the generation of people who emerged when feminism was crossing structuralism and psychoanalysis to produce the body of thought around post-feminism, I am naturally interested in these sorts of questions. I believe that these days, sometimes male artists are post-feminists in their practice… and sometimes female artists are extremely patriarchal in the authoritative way in which they might create a frontal, detached object of contemplation, which is not a feminist endeavour. So I would say that we have gone beyond gender quotas and it more about whether the work is post-feminist or not.”
Christov-Bakargiev, pp.31 2008 Biennale of Sydney Catalogue

I’d like to think we’re beyond gender quotas too, but when there are such discrepancies in the number of female versus male artists, it highlights the fact that perhaps they are necessary. I can’t even begin to imagine the furore that would’ve erupted had a male director curated such as small percentage of women into the biennale – does the fact that a woman has chosen the artists have an effect on the (seemingly) quite acceptance of such inequality? I certainly haven’t read anything other than a paragraph of Bec Dean’s article on the subject.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gender representation in Hobart galleries Winter 08

I have tallied up the number of female and male artists shown at a number of high-profile contemporary art galleries this winter to examine the gender imbalance in exhibiting contemporary artists. I have used the Hobart Winter Gallery Guide for this project, so there may be a few mistakes. Unsurprisingly, there are many more male artists than female overall, and it also appears that you are more likely to get a solo show if you are male. Apparently, there are more female Higher Research Degree Graduates at the Tasmanian School of Art than male graduates, so there is no shortage of practicing female artists. So, what are the excuses?

The galleries included in the tally are: Carnegie, Plimsoll, Criterion, Inflight, and Bett Gallery

I have excluded CAST for now as their listing in the Winter Guide doesn’t list individual artists and their website is down. I have also excluded 6a for similar reasons. The TMAG is a bit hard to calculate, but off the top of my head I think that the last two solo exhibitions there – Leigh Hobba and Ricky Maynard- were both male artists. The Salamanca Arts Centre is a bit hard to list because of its extremely varied program and often short shows. The gallery that triggered this count – Despard – is also excluded because they don’t list individual artists in the Gallery guide. I’m hoping to start including these other galleries in the future but I thought I’d just get these numbers up first.

(Note: collaborative artists are listed as individuals. That is, a work made by two female artists, both artists will be counted as individuals.)

Okey dokey here are the numbers:
Female 4
Male 0
(Two females had solo shows)

Female 4
Male 9
(Excluding 1+2 Architecture)

Female 1
Male 4
(Two males had solo shows)

Female 4
Male 3
(Two male and one female had solo shows)

Bett Gallery
Female 1
Male 6
(Two males and one female had solo shows)

Female 14
Male 22

Total Solo:
Female 4
Male 6 (8 if you count TMAG)

Carnegie had a definite gender balance, but it bucked the trend by being dominated by Female artists.

Plimsoll, despite all of the University’s equality statements, has more than twice the number of exhibiting male artists to female artists.

Criterion and Bett, our two commercial galleries have a definite swing towards the penis. Significant?

Inflight is perhaps the most balanced. I suspect that being an ARI, Inflight gets a lot of artists directly applying for shows, as opposed to being curated or selected for shows. What does this tell you about curatorial practices in Hobart? Should I be recording the gender of curators too perhaps?

As for TMAG… now that there is a female curator of art (well there will be in a couple of months), we might see a couple of female artists being granted solo exhibitions.

Once the CAST website is back up and I get info from 6a, I'll post some updated results. I'm looking forward to seeing what Spring shows us too...