Sunday, November 23, 2008


Coming back to our findings a few posts ago, how typical are the Broadsheet numbers? While browsing the aisles at our local (quality) news agency and bookshop — who between them stock most Australian art magazines — CoUNTess decided to buy the lot. Now there are magazines all over the CoUNTess offices, in the boardroom, in the lunch room, even the uni-sex toilets.

The flicking through large glossy pages, recapping of highlighter pens and the singing of post-it notes being ripped off their pads have become the CoUNTesses @'s theme tune of sorts; we keep breaking into singing Money by Pink Floyd for some reason.

The full count

For this project CoUNTesses counted the feature articles in each magazine, as listed in the table of contents. Feature articles are the main focus of the magazine and are often highlighted on the front cover, they are like the meat in the sandwich between the editorial and the reviews, intermingled with the advertisements that in turn supersize them. Our count revealed that feature representation is a goes-around-comes-around world, reflective of gender balance in galleries both commercial and public. While we were at it we also counted the representation of women writers, editors and cover stars - the count proving little better, especially where covers were concerned.

So whats the point of counting? Well, we at CoUNTess just think it is important to put it in black and white to see what you think.

Australian art magazine covers

flash back or not?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Missing in action

Countess Dahling von Dahling with her dog Masha.

CoUNTess is so excited about the graduating shows opening all over Australia in the next couple of weeks, those slaved over fund raised catalogues will provide the hard copy for counting the gender balance of art school graduates. Some of our advance orders have already arrived in the CoUNTess offices.

CoUNTess is often hearing how women make up between 70-90% of students at Australian art schools. If this figure is true then why is it not reflected in the numbers of artists shown in artist run spaces, public and commercial galleries and museums? So far our figures say 40% at best. Many women artists have a whole career without mention in an art magazines, where on average women make up 30 % of the artists featured. Why? And does seeing others of same gender succeed or fail influence an artist’s ambition?

Features in Australian art magazines October 2008

A typical spiel on an artschools web site says
However, as the discipline is charged with a responsibility for the education of professional visual artists, it is ultimately judged by the quality and proportion of its graduates who regularly and successfully exhibit in public and commercial galleries in Australia and throughout the world.
Given our figures, we think institutions should really be a little more upfront with their female students, as clearly when they graduate they are not achieving the levels of their male peers. Its like one giant scam.

Female visual art graduates future opportunities compare shamefully to women in other female dominated tertiary programs and their corresponding industry gender representation. CoUNTess wonders if the whole of art education has become a sausage factory where a few bureaucrats are milking vast numbers of student supplicants to feed their own need for employment.

This poses the question, should we be training so many female artists at art school, when there is not much opportunity for them as artists in the art world? Annika Strom thinks not. In the last issue of Frieze Issue 119 (Feature articles: 9 male artists, 3 female artists) she is the respondent in the regular questionnaire column on the last page.
What should change? The ongoing resistance of art museums to buying art made by women. Also, I would like to see more big solo shows by women before they're dead, and 90 percet less admission for women to art schools, as I am sick of teaching them while knowing they probably won't have their work displayed in any big museums or bought for major collections. Obviously women at art schools are a waste of taxpayers' money.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Broadsheet / September 2008 / Volume 37.3

Since The Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA) showed up to be the most dismally lopsided of equal opportunity exhibition spaces in our survey Balancing the Books, the CoUNTesses @ have decided to investigate further, turning our counting markers to the gallery's publicly funded magazine BROADSHEET. Like its main gallery representation, the magazine was similarly embarrassing for CACSA on the gender equality front.

CoUNTess picked up the current issue Broadsheet / September 2008 / Volume 37.3, with a view to investigate how much coverage is given to male artists vs female artists. The most direct method was to simply count the names of every artist discussed and referenced in the text (Individual artists were only counted once in each article. Curators, directors, writers and musicians were not counted).

The shameful result... Male artists receive 178 mentions, female artists...43. Ouch. But seeing as the Australian members of the Advisory Board total 8 males, 0 females, perhaps not too surprising. Broadsheet, you have been counted! Below is a breakdown of our Broadsheet findings.

Male 1

Advisory Board (International and Australian)
Male 16
Female 4

Advisory Board (Australian only)
Male 8
Female 0

Contributors to Broadsheet Volume 37.3
Male 10
Female 5

Male artists 178 mentions
Female artists 43 mentions

Cover image*
Male 1
Female 1
* artist collaborators

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Agency CoUNTess

On the occasion of an exhibition in Melbourne's salubrious Carlton Hotel titled Girls Girls Girls, CoUNTess announced her arrival on the back cover of the exhibition catalogue zine. The Countesses @ blogspot site meter has been spinning ever since. CoUNTess may be polymorphous but is completely straight laced when it comes to the numbers. As it is the numbers that tell the real story of the unequal conditions that women artists in Australia are operating within.

Since her arrival, the CoUNTess has welcomed new field operatives who love to count the gender representation in their own local nooks and crannies of the art world.

Already whistle blowers are sending in tips from all corners of the nation - some quite upset and irate about the overwhelming exclusion of women from so many exhibitions, and are wondering what they can do about it. Well, CoUNTess says a problem shared is a problem halved and there is nothing gained by not talking talking about it. No point waiting for Jerry Springer to expose the matter publicly, or Judge Judy to deliver a verdict.

A balanced gender representation in the art world is not to much to expect. If your local, publicly-funded gallery is showing less than 50% female artists, write a message of complaint to the gallery director, your local member, the galleries funding bodies. Thats what the CoUNTesses @ are busy doing.

CoUNTess has always said that change is possible. Now we have Bob the Builder and Barack Obama claiming they can fix it and change things too. And we all agree;