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 these past months since publishing in March this year.  

The primary rationale behind The Countess Reports findings is that women represent 75% of graduates from visual art degrees at universities yet less than 50% 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.  

Because playing with data is fun - and furnished by the way that so many details of an artists life are publicly available - for example when was the last time apart from reading a celebrity magazine at the supermarket check out that a persons age was so often referred to.  While in the art-world referencing an artists age or date of birth is done in a less up front way via a plaque on a museum wall. It is this museum public archive taxonomical system that records an artist's work and life into official local, state, national history,  that re-inscribes historical status. We were easily able to find online the date of birth of every single artist in the show but got no results when searching the same for the curators!

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

Sometimes the work or an image is courtesy of the artists gallery representation - here 25% of the women in the show do not have gallery representation while 75% of them do compared 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.  Summising that 90% of the women in the show have a degree compared to 60% of the men sheds some light on the who needs these qualifiers to establish ones status as an artist.  

Artists in The National 2017 with degrees graduated from these universities - below is a chart from showing the gender representation of graduates 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 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 highschool students and apply 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 feedback and responses to The Countess Report study in person and online via twitter #thecountessreport.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Countess Report

Tuesday 8 March 2016, coinciding with International Women’s Day, CoUNTess will release a new report on gender representation in the contemporary visual arts. It reveals that there is a continuing imbalance of power 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, chosen because the data set is recent, complete and still readily available. Detailed findings now available in The Countess Report offer evidence not previously available and provide a test case sample 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?  Maybe because the internet mirrors, via social media sites, the things one is searching in Google might explain the extraordinary number of links to feminist issues that seem to fill the Countesses news feed.  Taking this as a good sign Countess was pleasantly surprised when counting the gender representation on the just released list of Biennale of Sydney 2016 artists and found a perfect 50/50 split.

Exploring the BOS20 website the familiar anchor of the artists credentials are always present, part stock market report / spring racing guide with an auction like summary positioning artwork and artist. 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 show the information from each artist page on the BOS20 website; name, date of birth, location of birth and current residence, some but not all images are courtesy of a commercial gallery have also been recorded.  (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.  (The count of BOS19 there was 90% of artists 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.