Sunday, December 2, 2012

Educating and exhibiting artists


The fact remains that twice as many female artists graduate from our art schools compared to male artists. 

Gender representation in a selection of 2011 Bachelor of Visual Art degree courses nationally
Data collected from 2011 graduation exhibition websites 
(Charles Darwin University not included as no data available)

Based on this fact you would expect to see twice the work exhibited to be by female artists in our public and commercial galleries and museums. CoUNTess has noted before how gender representation is reflected in the workplace of other female dominated degree programs.  


Gender representation in exhibitions from a selection (one from each state) of CAOS contemporary art space galleries


Even if half of graduating female artists turned out to be unambitious or uninteresting, then you should still expect to see half of the work exhibited to be by female artists. Yet, it’s not like that. Instead, what is represented in most galleries is the reverse of what the graduate statistics should lead us to expect.

Gender representation total in percentages of visual art graduates in 2011 and exhibiting artists in selected CAOS galleries (one selected from each state)


A third of artists exhibiting in CAOS galleries for example are women, yet women make up two thirds of art school graduates. That means that a female graduate has a much less chance of getting recognition and remuneration than a male graduate. 

CoUNTess numbers have consistently shown that women artists make up 60-65% of the artist population (the pool) yet get 33-40% of the pie, while male artists who make up 33-40% of the artist population get 60-65% of the pie.



Pie I have eaten / Pie I am yet to eat



Pie I have eaten / Pie I am yet to eat


For a few years now CoUNTess has been keeping tabs on gender representation in the Australian art world and sharing our findings via this blog.   We are pleased that all our number crunching is adding up to something and coming to the attention of the media and institutions.  Renown feminist journalist Anne Summers new online publication Anne Summers Report featured a report on CoUNTess on page 11.

And in The Age Sunday Dec 2nd CoUNTess gets a significant reference in an article by Fiona Grubber “Recasting the old masters club” pointing out how women working in Australia’s visual art institutions far outnumber men yet only a few are holding the top jobs. Nor were these credible women candidates touted as even being in the running for the recent directorial appointments at various state museums.  CoUNTess wonders why the art world is a place where the majority of administrative, curatorship and promotion positions at art institutions are filled by women (as Grubber points out the top job is more often than not a man) all the while exhibiting in the majority male artists CoUNTess believes, at the expense of their female colleagues?

There are a couple of points in Grubber's article of particular interest to CoUNTess as they address the social and economic climate that women artists are working in. The first is in reference to Sydney gallerist Roslyn Oxley

she sees gender bias in the marketplace all the time. Collectors tend to prefer male artists' work, and among the gallery's stable of mid-career artists, the men's earning capacity is significantly greater”

This is interesting because it pinpoints the issue of collector bias as important research for future attention in the posts of CoUNTess.  Anyone who visits art fairs, commercial galleries and auction houses can take note how often the price point for women artists is significantly lower than for work by men.  

The second point of interest is the reference to a statistic from the Australia Council, showing the gender of working artists and how much they earn.

“Being an artist is also twice as tough for women. Australia Council statistics from 2008 (the most recent available) reveal that two thirds of visual artists are women but that women in the arts (there are no separate income figures for visual artists) earn on average 50 per cent less than men.”

One way to influence collector bias is to ensure that public funding of art institutions is shared more equitably. If publicly funded galleries collected and exhibited with equitable recognition female artists,  would certainly raise the artists profile and elevate a collectors confidence to buy work by female artists. CoUNTess believes our public galleries should also be taking an interest in collecting and exhibiting art that is representative of what is being produced not just art that is being speculated upon.



Monday, June 25, 2012

Contemporary Australia: Women



Contemporary Australia: Women was a surprising exhibition on the calendar this year, the second in the Contemporary Australia exhibitions, the first Optimism which included considerably more men than women artists 'Contemporary Australia: Women' redresses the balance considerably and includes 100% women artists. GOMA website says:

'Contemporary Australia: Women' includes more than 70 works in painting, sculpture, photography, installation, textiles, video, and performance. The exhibition will explore key themes such as ‘performing’ femininity; the place of personal and intimate spheres such as sexuality, the body, motherhood and ageing; the return to everyday materials; and the ways some artists are ‘redressing the canon’ of painting.




Gender applies to men just as it does to women yet it is predominantly women who are grouped and defined by it. Could an exhibition called 'Men' be staged, and if so would the show only include male artists? Could a woman artist also also engage with the male subject? At CoUNTess we think so as women can draw on their lifelong experience at identifying or coming to understand the centralised male protagonist.

Other all-women shows at large museums over the past couple of years such as WACK a touring exhibitions from MOCA or Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Elles at the Centre Georges Pompidou have influenced a contemporary agenda within the curating and museum landscape and effectively redistributing gallery wall space, but these all-gender shows can also be criticised for marginalising the artists they exhibit and women artists as a whole. Are audiences being asked to look at this art as a separate category from 'mainstream' art. As far as we can tell none of these exhibitions included any males artists, again this separates the concerns we are told women artists have as not influencing the 'mainstream' male art. A suggested heirarchy comes into play mens art is too often represented as referencing humanity, (why not just performing masculinity?) and in dialogue with art history while women's art needs its own separate category and therefore is adjunct or alternative to men's art.

While WACK and co place feminism front and centre to their curatorial premise the f word is hardly mentioned in the online and educational material for GOMA's Contemporary Australia: Women. The f word seems to be avoided as this show situates itself as celebrating the achievements of women artists the curator Julie Ewington is quoted in The Australian:

"What is the show about? It's about celebration and exploration. It's not about complaint, it's about what is being achieved."
And it is good to have a growing variety of exhibitions and practices and for these to be seen in our public museums, CoUNTess is behind these kinds of shows as they do raise the profile and work of women artists and that is a good thing. So while CoUNTess loves these enterprises the grand prize would be to see equal numbers of women in all contemporary art exhibitions.

Artists Featured
Amata painters (SA): senior artists, Tjampawa Katie Kawiny; Wawiriya Burton; Ruby Tjangawa Williamson; Iluwanti Ken; Tjungkara Ken; Paniny Mick
Rebecca Baumann (WA)
Lauren Brincat (NSW)
Brown Council (NSW): Frances Barrett; Kate Blackmore; Kelly Doley; Diana Smith
Kirsty Bruce (QLD)
Bindi Cole (VIC)
Agatha Gothe-Snape (NSW)
Marie Hagerty (NSW/ACT)
Fiona Hall (SA)
Natalya Hughes (NSW)
RuthHutchinson (VIC)
Deborah Kelly (NSW)
Justine Khamara (VIC)
Anastasia Klose (VIC)
Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano (VIC)
Jennifer Mills (VIC)
Kate Mitchell (NSW)
Rose Nolan (VIC)
Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with Parachutes for Ladies (NSW): Hayley Forward; Jess Olivieri
Therese Ritchie (NT)
Sandra Selig (QLD)
Noël Skrzypczak (VIC)
Sally Smart (VIC)
Soda_Jerk (NSW): Dan Angeloro; Dominique Angeloro
Wakartu Cory Surprise (WA)
Hiromi Tango (QLD)
Monika Tichacek (NSW)
Jenny Watson (QLD)
Judy Watson (QLD)
Louise Weaver (VIC)
Justene Williams(NSW)
Gosia Wlodarczak (VIC)
Judith Wright (QLD)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Auditing the Order of CAOs 2011

click to enlarge

Artists who exhibited in solo and group shows in National CAOs galleries in 2011

by The Auditor

Auditing the Order of CAOs 2011
A few years ago we counted gender representation of CAOs (Contemporary Arts Organisations Australia). We found that most of CAOs public art spaces preferred showing the work male artists (60% male artists/40% female artists). We decided to see if the balance had improved since 2008 and looked at the same galleries over the 12 month program of 2011.

As in the past survey, we counted the main gallery spaces, for solo and group exhibitions (see full survey below). We were surprised and disappointed that the balance had worsened since 2008. Artspace had made a slight improvement, but most galleries had a significant bias towards showing male artists, except for 24HR art in Darwin.
The IMA (Institute of Men’s Art) in Brisbane fared the worst, showing hardly any women at all in their program.

click to enlarge

Column length
The amount and quality of text written about an artist can reflect the promotion and appreciation of their work. It's often the case that women artist's work gets less word coverage than their male counter-parts, and when they are written about, the authors can easily get distracted away from the artist to focus on other issues and male artists. In contrast, we are noticing a trend of more words and grander references when curators write about the work of male artists. Often curators get more mention than the female artists.

We decided to test this repetitive observation by measuring the length of text in centimetres published on the gallery’s web pages from the CAOs 2011 program and quickly confirmed that women artists do get much less written about them.

Each text was put into a word document with consistent font and settings. We got out our rulers and did the measurements. Text was measured if the author was discussing a particular artist’s work, and not counted when discussing general themes of a mixed gender group show for example.

click to enlarge
Text centimetres on artists who exhibited in solo and group shows in National CAOs websites in 2011



Unequal Share

We are interested in how public money is being spent in the arts. Public art spaces are primarily funded by the Australia Council so can we assume are subject to EEO in the workplace.

How does EEO work?
Part 9A of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act requires all public sector agencies to implement EEO programs. The aims of such EEO programs are to:
• ensure that the talents of all staff are fully recognised and used in accordance with the merit principle;
• redress past disadvantages;
• better meet customer service requirements;
• implement employment conditions which promote increased productivity; and
• achieve the redistribution of people in the EEO groups in all levels and classifications of work.


Are the Australia Council and public galleries intentionally flaunting government policy, or just being accidentally lazy in distributing funds to more male artists than female artists? If they think it is too hard to do the sums, we have done it in a few hours so why can’t they? Unless the Australia Council and the public galleries are more accountable for where their money is being spent they risk credibility and funding. None of us want that.
The Auditor

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adelaide Biennial 2004 - 2012








Women artist exhibited in Adelaide Festival Visual Arts, Adelaide Biennial 2004-2012
Anne Wallace
Anne-Marie May
Annika Larsson (SWE)/
Bronwyn Oliver
Bronwyn Wright
Catherine Woo
Chosil Kil (STH KOR/UK)
Danae Stratou (GRE)
Deborah Paauwe
Debra Dawes
Destiny Deacon
Diena Georgeti
Doreen Reid Nakamarra
Dorothy Napangardi
Gabriella & Silvana Mangano
Jacky Redgate
Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley
Janet Laurence
Jinoos Taghizadeh (IRAN)
Julie Gough (Tas)
Justene Williams
Kate Rohde
Kylie Stillman
Linda Wallace
Lisa Reihana (NZ)
Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Louise Weaver
Michelle Nikou
Michelle Ussher
Mikala Dwyer
Nancy Spero (USA)
Narelle Jubelin
Pat Brassington
Patricia Piccinini
Rose Nolan
Rosemary Laing
Sandra Saunders
Sandra Selig
Saskia Olde Wolbers (NED/UK)
Silvia Velez
Simryn Gill
Susan Jacobs
Suzann Victor
Teresa Margolles (MEX)
Tjanpi Desert Weavers (NT/SA)
Tracy Moffatt
Vanila Netto
Yhonnie Scarce (Vic/SA)
Yvonne Koolmatrie

Adelaide Biennial 2012




CoUNTess has received a few emails and comments about the upcoming 2012 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art pointing out the gender imbalance in the line up of "leading artists" in this curated exhibition, so we have put together some numbers for you.

It is worth noting that all the curators for the Adelaide Biennial have been women. The 2012 Biennial is made up of three exhibitions that appear to separate art into different categories 1. International artists Restless 2. Indigenous artists Deadly and 3. Australian artists Parallel Collissions and we have counted all three.

The exhibitions of International art and Indigenous art, women are well represented, but when we come to the category "Australian Art" CoUNTess concludes that yes this show does has a very male flavour. To see this current "Australian Art" exhibition in a historical context we have counted what we could find documented online from 2004-2012 - click here.