Gender imbalance rife in parts of Australia's visual arts sector, new report reveals

A new report looking into gender representation in the visual arts sector has revealed that while women make up 74% of visual arts graduates, they make up only 40% of the artists shown by commercial galleries and just 34% shown in state museum exhibitions.

The Countess Report, which looks at statistics from 2014, also shows that while women win 56% of art prizes, they receive less of the total prize money available.

Female artists are also neglected by the visual arts media, with only 34% of features focusing on female artists and 61% focusing on males. Male artists also make up 80% of the covers of visual arts publications.

The situation is better when it comes to the Biennales, ARIs (artist run galleries) and prize winners categories for 2014, which all included more women than men.

But according to the report: “The closer an artist gets to money, prestige and power the more likely they are to be male and male artists’ work sells for higher prices than female artists’ work. These results are not surprising as they mirror those in almost all other areas of creative production as well as in almost all spheres of power and influence.”

The Countess Report was conducted by Elvis Richardson, and spun out of her blog CoUNTess: Women count in the art-world, which has been collecting statistics about gender representation in all areas of the arts world since 2008. Since its inception, the blog has become hugely influential in highlighting the problems faced by female artists in art education, art practice and contemporary art culture. The Countess Report was funded by the Cruthers Art Foundation with assistance from NAVA (National Association for the Visual Arts).

In a statement, Tamara Winikoff, Executive Director of the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) said: “Despite the reputation of the arts as challenging outdated paradigms, it continues to fail on gender issues. Old habits die hard. We thought we’d won the battle in the 80s when the spotlight was shone on the systemic privileging of men in the arts. I hope this excellent report will rekindle the discussion and bring about a much needed change.”

Cruthers Art Foundation chair and project steering committee member John Cruthers said: “The report should be used to guide funding organisations, galleries, museums, exhibitions, foundations and arts media in areas of gender representation and gender equality. It also establishes a significant benchmark for gender representation in the Australian visual art sector so that our future progress towards equality can be quantified.”

The report is available online and has been released as a website, thecountessreport.com.au

Featured image: The Lacquer Room, Grace Cossington Smith (1938), part of the AGNSW collection

One response to “Gender imbalance rife in parts of Australia's visual arts sector, new report reveals

  1. I recently looked at the Collection of the NGA in Canberra and found the International Collection especially woeful for women artists. There are major pieces for sure but nowhere near enough. Now would be the time to remedy this because unfortunately prices are lower for woman’s work.

    However on a broader view I am mixed on targets as such. I mean there will never be one for same sex attracted people (gay and lesbian etc.). In fact I would say some of the worst Homophobia I ever encountered was from the art world AND from other gay men in the art world! Similarly I have experienced some Very Ugly behavior from female curators who hide their actions under a cloak of “Feminism”. the recent discussions on this site about Fiona Hall and Venice came down to “don’t attack a female” from some.

    Just as with Indigenous art we have to say that there will be a bit of bad art that gets promoted over other work only because of Identity. It is bound to happen and the art world needs to acknowledge this as well.

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