Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Venice Biennale 2009

The CoUNTess has just returned from touring the 53rd Venice Biennale with a dismal number of represented women artists to report. This first post is counting the artists who were selected to exhibit in the national pavilions. Women artists were 46 out to a total of 189 thats 24.3%. The national pavilions may have a single solo artist, or assemble a range of artists, or curate a group show. Eleven national pavilions held solo shows by women artists in total 27.5% while 29 men went solo for their country, 72.5% in total.

The CoUNTess believes that pavilions who hosted large group shows have no excuse for not including women in them. Indeed, these were the worst offenders; Italy - 17 men and 2 women, China - 7 men and 0 women, Denmark and Nordic Countries - 18 men and 5 women, Azerbaijan - 7 men and 1 woman, Croatia - 3 men and 0 women, Syrian Arab Republic - 9 men and 0 women and Istituto Italo-Latino Americano pavillion has 13 men and 2 women.

As all these artists have been individually selected by their countries (who have an official pavilion of course) one would have to conclude that female artists are unfashionable right now. Very unfashionable at 24.3% - that's not even a quarter. We will crunch the numbers in our next post of the exhibition curated by the Biennale director Daniel Birnbaum Making Worlds.

The 2009 Venice Biennale has only 46 women artists in the national pavilions - 24.3% of the total number of 189 artists.

Pink is a wedge in a sea of blue

It's a mans world when it comes to representing your country solo

While The CoUNTess loves to pour over the CV section of those giant catalogues they are a bitch to cart home, so the counting for this post has been conducted online. Names must be clarified, genders distinguished. A pattern emerged where if gender wasn't mentioned in the first two paragraphs of an artist's bio it was more likely an article about a woman artist - a fact often buried deep in paragraph four or five. A new category has emerged as The CoUNTess wonders 'why so few women artists' - an amalgamation of both age and gender breakdown. What age is an artist most likely to be selected to exhibit in this world cup of art events? Those CVs are like racing guides.

There is a group whose dates of birth could not be determined. The youngest artists are born in the 1980s and this category is pretty even in terms of gender representation, with women artists making up 44%. The women born in the 70s are the largest group in the women's total, but still only represent 35% of all artists in this age bracket.

The largest group of artists showing in this years 53rd Venice Biennale national pavillions are those born in the 1960s, These artists are now 40-50 years old and would be considered mid-career and established, and ergo a relatively safe selection. In this group it is astonishing that women only make up 15% while men make up 84%. Living women artists having so little representation in this influential age group is so disappointing.

Women a generation older and born in the 1950s, and having developed in the 80s and 90s when feminism made its strongest impact in the artworld, seem to have retained some foothold,  representing 25%. The category of senior artists born prior to 1950 includes only 1 women artist, Gayane Khachaturian of Armenia born in 1942, while there were 17 senior male artists. This last category really suggests a bleak future for all women artists and artists in general. The median age, before the graph heads south for a woman artist is 35; the instinct is to yell back at the figures the obvious: "women don't just stop making art at 40." So where are the women? Are these numbers the forensic site of a feminist backlash? We hope so.

With these numbers what could the future be for the legacy and tradition of women artists?

Gayane Khachaturian - Armenia
Claire Healy - Australia
Elke Krystufek - Austria
Dorit Margreiter - Austria
Franziska Weinberger - Austria
Naila Sultan - Azerbaijan
Thora Dolven Balka - Denmark and Nordic Countries
Laura Horelli - Denmark and Nordic Countries
Klara Liden - Denmark and Nordic Countries
Nina Saunders - Denmark and Nordic Countries
Kristina Norman - Estonia
Owanto - Republic of Gabon
Nadine Hilbert - Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Sarah Browne - Ireland
Elisa Sighicelli - Italy
Miwa Yanagi - Japan
Haegue Yang - Korea
Evelina Deicmane - Latvia
Teresa Margolles - Mexico
Fathiya Tahiri - Morocco
Fiona Tan - The Netherlands
Judy Millar - New Zealand
Francis Upritchard - New Zealand
Andrea Faciu - Romania
Gosha Ostretsov - Russia
Irina Korina - Russia
Marialuisa Tadei - Republic of San Marino
Nico Macina - Republic of San Marino
Elisa Monaldi - Republic of San Marino
Michela Pozzi - Republic of San Marino
Thea Tini - Republic of San Marino
Katarina Zdjelar - Serbia
Silvia Bachli - Switzerland
Sudsiri Pui-ock - Thailand
Wantanee Siripattananuntakul - Thailand
Banu Cennetoglu - Turkey
Lanava Gargash - United Arab Emerates
Gabriela Croes - Venezuela
Magdalena Fernindez - Venezuela
Bernardita Rakos - Venezuela
Antonieta Sosa - Venezuela
Oksana Shatalova - Kazakhstan
Yelena Vorobyeva - Kazakhstan
Ermek Jaenisch - Kyrgyzstan
Sandra Gamarra - Peru
Raquel Paiewonsky - Dominican Republic


melissa laing said...

I am quite happy at this moment to have a nationalistic feeling and say of the four "official" NZ pavilions we've had 2 men and 4 women (even though one of them operates under multiple identities and genders)

Anonymous said...

I was in NZ recently and saw the Rita Angus show and just missed the Francis Hodgkins exhibition. It was great and it made me wonder who would be the evalent Australian female artists? Would our national narratives be different if we had such artists? Or is it chicken and egg.. had our national narratives been different would women be given a more prominent place in our cultural history?

Gillian Sneed said...

Ingar Dragset (Danish and Nordic) and Joao Maria Gusmao (Portugal) are men.

Gillian Sneed said...

Ingar Dragset (DN + ND) and Joao Maria Gusmao (PT) are men

Anonymous said...


JamPolk said...

Oh no. Just scraping into my 40s and finding it more and more of a struggle to be bothered making art when clearly nobody is much interested. Those stats do not make me feel any better. I am thinking of going chick only shows for a while to try and reset the bias!

Goffers said...

I was thinking about why so many women writers write about may be that its the fascination with 'the other'. I know I am intrigued by the minds of the opposite sex, and excited to know them. But then I thought, why isn't the opposite the case, and sadly can only presume that men aren't that interested in the women, they only know themselves, and just aren't bothered.