Thursday, May 25, 2017

launch of new website and fundraiser

Since 2008 Countess’s unstoppable commitment to data collection and reportage puts gender equity on the record for everyone to see.

Women are 75% of art school graduates but only 34% of artists exhibited in our state museums and galleries. Statistics like this from the cannot be argued with – they are evidence that gender biases plays a role in determining what art is exhibited, collected and rewarded.

Countess is internationally recognised as the go-to resource for statistics, data and dialogue on gender equity in the Australian visual arts sector. We have already made an impact, sparking debate and excavating the often overlooked, entrenched and normalised gender biases of those in power, but there is still much work to be done.

Countess values access and inclusion and has always been freely available online as both a blog and interactive benchmarking report. Countess is a resource for the entire arts ecology – artists, art institutions and their arts workers, curators, directors, boards, art educators, students, art collectors and consumers.

Our counting has so far been limited by our resources. This has meant using data that is readily accessible – information that is determined by the visible, binaristic genders accounted for in press releases, magazines and official websites. We acknowledge this approach is necessarily limited and it is now essential to expand our scope to include and address a broader conversation.


Editorial Team
Countess has worked unpaid for too long! Countess needs your donation to fund an ambitious, focused and innovative new editorial team to ask new questions, drive new discussions and to discover and create new strategies and vision.

New Website
Your donation will fund the redesign and building of a robust, beautiful and instructive new website with an integrated database that will form the framework and platform for Countess activities going forward.

New Content
As well as continuing the important work of data collection and dialogue around gender equity Countess plans to launch an expanded online platform that will actively commission essays and reviews and creative responses that contribute a wider analysis and dialogue around the issues that create and effect gender equity in the Australian visual arts.

Suite of Educational Resources
Your donation will fund the expert research and development of dynamic and creative high school educational resources based around the Countess data and findings specifically for the year 12 curriculum and will be available freely on the new Countess website.

     If you want to be part of ensuring an accountable and more transparent art-world
     If you want a platform to discuss gender identity, intersectionality and representation in the art-world
     If you believe education and dialogue around gender bias has the potential to inspire lasting change
     If you believe Countess’ educational resources should be free
     If you believe education and dialogue around gender bias has the potential to inspire lasting change
     if you have ever wondered how gender bias affects you
Your donation is fully tax deductible thanks to the Australian Cultural Fund.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 - 2017

It has been way too long between posts, but we have been having a bit of a rest here at CoUNTess since publishing in March.  

The primary statistic uncovered by The Countess Report is that women represent 75% of graduates from visual art degrees at universities, yet less than 50% representation in commercial and museum shows.

Recent 2016 data collected for Masters and Phd graduates at the following popular universities:
Monash University 6 women, 2 men; COFA UNSW 15 women, 5 men; SCA University of Sydney 12 women, 9 men (PhD graduates 6 women, 1 man) and RMIT 13 women, 9 men.  Total - 46 women graduates (64%) and 25 men from these four institutions (35%).  

But when we look at artists represented by commercial galleries, or in curated museum exhibitions like the freshly minted 'The National 2017' women make up only 47% of the artists.  

Playing with data is fun because it's furnished by so many details of an artist's life being made so publicly available - for example when, apart from reading a celebrity magazine at the supermarket check out, is a persons age so often referred to? Although, to be fair, the art world's referencing of an artist's age or date of birth is done in a less up-front way than a magazine cover, they do it via a plaque on a museum wall. It is the museum's public, taxonomical system of recording an artist's work and life into official local, state and national history that inscribes historical status. Perhaps this is why this information is so well tended to in the archives (online or wall text) of an institution? Interestingly, while we were easily able to find online the date of birth of every single artist in 'The National 2017', but got no results when searching the same for the curators!

Wall plaques also refer to where an artist was born or lives.

Sometimes a work or image is courtesy of an artists gallery representation - here 25% of the women in the show do not have gallery representation ,while 75% of them do. This compares to 9% of men with no gallery representation and 91% who do.

Throsby & Hollister’s 2003 economic study of professional artists: "Don’t give up your day job." 67% of visual art respondents nominated formal tertiary education as the most important training they undertake to become an artist (p30). 

75% of the artists in 'The National 2017' have graduated from university with a visual art degree, but you will notice that only 10% of the total women have no degree compared with 40% of the total men.  Surmising that 90% of the women in the show have a degree compared to 60% of the men sheds some light on the who needs qualifications to establish their status as an artist, and who is naturally awarded the privilege. 

Artists in 'The National 2017' with degrees graduated from the universities listed above. For comparison, below is a chart from showing the gender representation of graduates from these schools in 2014.

CoUNTess has big plans for 2017 and we hope you can be a part of them - we will be launching one of those crowd sourcing fundraising campaigns to raise money to help realise the following projects: 

1. Print The Countess Report 2016 into a booklet with ISBN and distribute to all art school libraries and high schools.  
2.  Create specific educational materials to be available for high school students, and apply for this to be a part of the HSC, VCE etc curriculum.  
3. Commission a guest editor to run the CoUNTess blog and social media for 12+ months and provide writers fees and mentorship.
4. Create a new online system to enable self-reporting data collection of institutions' gender representation.

Stay tuned, more news soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NAME THAT ARTIST! CoUNTess Drop In Centre @ Ideas Platform, Artspace Sydney 3-8 May 2016

Name that artist! Drop-in Centre, Gift Shop, Gender Bias Testing Machine, Discussion, Feedback, Interviews,

Elvis Richardson, artist and author of The Countess Report ( will be in residence at the Ideas Platform @ Artspace Sydney from the Tuesday 3rd - Saturday 7th May 2016.  The public and interested parties are invited to meet with Elvis in this drop-in / discussion space to share their feedback and responses to The Countess Report in person. You can also share your thoughts on The Countess Report online via twitter #thecountessreport during this time.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Countess Report

On Tuesday 8 March 2016, coinciding with International Women’s Day, CoUNTess will release a new report on gender representation in the contemporary visual arts. The report reveals that there is a continuing imbalance of power in the art world, with men holding more positions at senior levels and male artists significantly better represented by commercial galleries.  

The Countess Report is a benchmarking project and online resource on gender equality in the Australian contemporary art sector. Put together by Elvis Richardson, it compiles and analyses data on education, prizes, funding, art media, organisational makeup, and exhibitions of various kinds across a wide range of galleries including national and State, regional, commercial, ARIs (Artist Run Galleries), and CAOs (Contemporary Art Spaces). The Countess Report is based on publically available data collected from websites, exhibition catalogues, magazines and media in the calendar year 2014 - a year chosen because the data set is recent, complete and still readily available. Detailed findings now available in The Countess Report offer evidence of gender disparity in the arts that was not previously available, and provide test-case samples for future benchmarking.

The Countess Report was conducted by Elvis Richardson, through the initiative and research funding of the Cruthers Art Foundation and assistance provided by NAVA, and an Advisory Committee composed of Dr. Eva Cox AODr. Jacqueline MilnerTamara Winikoff OAM, Amanda Rowell and John Cruthers,who have overseen the Countess Report and provided invaluable guidance and assistance.  


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sydney Biennale

Countess has long ruminated on ideas of success and recognition in the art world, thinking about how success is perceived and experienced in the mysterious 'careers' that artists pursue. Do women and men experience the art world differently?  We at Countess have noticed an extraordinary number of links to feminist issues and news in our social media feeds; maybe, this is because these feeds mirror the things one is searching in Google, or perhaps it's that these issues are popular with the majority of our online community. Either way, this influx of feminism in our feeds is a good sign, showing that there is stuff out there about women's experience of the world and that this stuff is gaining traction. Art-life reflecting online-life, we were pleasantly surprised when counting the gender representation of the just-released list of artists participating in the 2016 Biennale of Sydney, finding a perfect 50/50 split.

Exploring the BOS20 website, the familiar guides to participating artists' credentials are present - part stock market report, part spring racing guide, with an auction-like summary positioning artwork and artist as valuable cultural investments for the Biennale's visitors (and reputation). This public information is also referenced by influential websites such as Artnet, and Artfacts - organisations who rank artists and institutions for art collectors and institutions.

The graphs below shows information from each artist page on the BOS20 website; name, date of birth, location of birth and current residence  (F=female, FF=female/female collaboration, FM=female/male collaboration, M=male, MM=male/male collaboration)

A wise artist once said "Art is for young people" and perhaps she was right, in this Biennale 25 artists are born before 1970, and twice as many (50) artist are born post 1970.  (At BOS19  90% of artists were born post-1970!)

Artists in BOS20 are born in a variety of locations.

Many artists move to central cities such as Berlin, London, Paris, New York and 15 of the listed artists live in more than one city.  

Images on each artists page included information about gallery representation, over half of the artists in BOS20 are represented by galleries.  A quick search of the first 20 (25%) of artists in BOS20 list revealed that 85% had previously shown in other international biennales.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Archibald Prize

The CoUNTess email alert has been singing a questioning tune the last two days since the Archibald Portrait Prize finalists have been announced.  "Is CoUNTess counting the Archibald?" they have asked.  OMG is it that time of year again? The auditor has crunched the numbers from the last 10 years to share with you.

The question is - how many women artists have applied? We have requested these statistics from Art Gallery of New South Wales and hope to get an answer from them soon. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

UNSW Galleries

Just days before International Women’s Day and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the exhibition Collection+: Shaun Gladwell opened at UNSW Galleries. Since re/opening in 2013, the gallery has hosted four solo shows for male artists and, disappointingly, no solo shows for female artists.

Prompted by this discrepancy and the many missed opportunities, I decided to follow in the CoUNTess’ footsteps and get counting!

Here are the results:

UNSW Galleries’ worst performance was in the category of Solo Shows, with exhibitions being dedicated to Edward Burtynsky, Shaun Gladwell, Richard Goodwin and Richard Mosse. I hope to see this figure balanced out in a year or two.

The figures for curated Group Shows also aren’t great. Female artists comprise only 34% of artists shown, in comparison to 53% male and 13% collaborating artists. The worst offender was curator Andrew Frost, whose exhibition Conquest of Space: Science Fiction & Contemporary Art exhibited more than double the number of male to female artists, and also included a film program of nine male directors. Female directors were entirely absent. By contrast, David McNeil’s Quo Vadis: The last drawing show represented an equal number of male and female artists. Special mention goes to Ali Groves whose exhibition Mighty Healthy was the only Group Show to represent more women than men.

Finally, I counted the number of artists selected for Prize exhibitions and here I was pleasantly surprised. Men and women were equally represented, tallying 48% each with the leftover 4% representing collaborating artists. The Prize shows include The Blake Prize, John Fries Award and the Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarships. It seems the entry process and the panel-like nature of judging and curating Prize shows produces far more gender-balanced exhibitions. Kudos to the Freedmans, Kath Fries, Megan Cope, Anne Ferran, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Sebastien Goldspink, Lisa Havilah, Tim Johnson, Jay Johnston, Alex Norman and Jess Olivieri.

UNSW Galleries also produced some interesting statistics in terms of Curators and Judges. Women tallied 57% of solo and co-curators and judges, while men tallied only 37%. (The remaining 8% are either unknown or private). These are encouraging statistics and remind us that the artworld is no longer so firmly controlled by the old, white, male guard of yesteryear. 

Overall, UNSW Galleries has exhibited 51% male artists, 40% female artists and 9% collaborating*. My verdict: not terrible, but there’s certainly room for improvement!

* Student shows including Neil Brandhorst’s SEGUE and The Annual were not included in this count.

Dr Louise R Mayhew is an Australian feminist art historian and the SLNSW Nancy Keesing Fellow. She’s currently researching the Women’s Warehouse (1979–81) and contemporary collaboration in Australia.