Monday, April 23, 2012

Auditing the Order of CAOs 2011

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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 CAO's 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.

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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.

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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


Anonymous said...

countess and auditor I totally agree with the EEO stuff. if these 'public' galleries get funding yet they use it to exhibit and promote inequitably more men then women what does this mean in terms of accountability to their funding bodies

share this post with your local member i say

Rona Chadwick Artist said...

how can we hold these institutions to account? i wrote to the commonwealth head of equal opportunity and received a response (several months later from a delegated individual)telling me that the arts was not a priority for the commissioner. thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

australia council gives 50% of grants to women artists thereby recognising that women artists are at least as worthy as male artists. Why can't the public galleries that it funds recognise the same merit?

Christine Morrow said...

Countesses, I am a lover of contemporary art, a woman, a feminist, a previous Curator of Primavera at MCA and a current Director of a CAoS network organisation.

As a feminist, I am really impressed by your continual analysis of gender statistics in the Australian art world. I think it is really important and wish some of these numbers were more widely known. In order for your claims to achieve a wider credibility, though, your data analysis would have to be much, much more thorough!

Something that I hope you will please address is your report on the gender breakdown of CAoS organisations' exhibitors. Australian Experimental Art Foundation was excluded from your list of CAoS organisations, and this seems like an oversight.

If you were to include all of CAoS organisations for 2011 you would arrive at a more representative picture. I hope you will please address this!

Christine Morrow
Australian Experimental Art Foundation

count.esses(at) said...

Dear Christine,
thank you for your prompting and we will certainly readdress those numbers with AEAF included - will get onto that asap.