Monday, October 20, 2008

Balancing the books

The usual breathtaking views from Countesses office are being obstructed by piles of papers in addition to post it notes on every surface and calculators crunching underfoot.  But this blog is not about OH&S its about gender representation in the Australian artworld. There has been a mountain of research to get through in the quest to compile the numbers and we are all out of pink and blue highlighters.  The CoUNTesses @ have decided to sort our excel spread sheet into bite size chunks. "First things first, but not necessarily in that order" as Dr Who wisely said.

The CoUNTesses @ have visited the websites of one mid sized publicly funded contemporary art gallery from each state and added up the number of women and men who have exhibited in the gallery's main space from the first show in 2007 to September 2008.   We haven't included the offsite projects and spaces, graduate exhibitions or competitions and they will be the subject of future posts. The main gallery spaces host solo and curated group shows and are major milestones in an artists exhibiting career and all the galleries reviewed accepted proposals for their exhibition programs. And no we haven't forgotten the Apple Isle, but Cast in Hobart has missed out this time as their website is under construction.

The CoUNTesses @ wants to take this opportunity to encourage female artists in Australia to send off those applications for exhibitions in these 'artspaces' as we have discovered there is a huge gap in the market that needs urgent redressing.  With the exception of 24Hr Art in Darwin who exhibited more women then men, the next rating approaching an equal balance was Gertrude Contemporary Artspaces in Melbourne with 60% men and 40% women, and CACSA were the worst offenders with 77% men and 23% women.

The CoUNTesses suggest these organisations EEO policies should be seriously reviewed as EEO is an outcome not a procedure.  Otherwise could somebody please explain this gender discrepancy? The CoUNTesses @ expect only the highest quality work to be exhibited so are rightfully suspicious that it is men as a group who are consistently given these exhibition opportunities. If the galleries are programing exhibitions of the highest quality are they declaring that men make better art than women? Then why so few women artists? Is it a question of talent and ambition or just plain old fashioned discrimination?  

The Australia Council sets an excellent example and equally awards individual grants to men and women artists which proves it can be done without causing a major taste crisis.  The CoUNTesses @ thinks these artspaces and all public galleries should be expected to do the same.

Balance the books.