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