Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sydney Biennale

Countess has long ruminated on ideas of success and recognition in the art world, thinking about how success is perceived and experienced in the mysterious 'careers' that artists pursue. Do women and men experience the art world differently?  We at Countess have noticed an extraordinary number of links to feminist issues and news in our social media feeds; maybe, this is because these feeds mirror the things one is searching in Google, or perhaps it's that these issues are popular with the majority of our online community. Either way, this influx of feminism in our feeds is a good sign, showing that there is stuff out there about women's experience of the world and that this stuff is gaining traction. Art-life reflecting online-life, we were pleasantly surprised when counting the gender representation of the just-released list of artists participating in the 2016 Biennale of Sydney, finding a perfect 50/50 split.

Exploring the BOS20 website, the familiar guides to participating artists' credentials are present - part stock market report, part spring racing guide, with an auction-like summary positioning artwork and artist as valuable cultural investments for the Biennale's visitors (and reputation). This public information is also referenced by influential websites such as Artnet, and Artfacts - organisations who rank artists and institutions for art collectors and institutions.

The graphs below shows information from each artist page on the BOS20 website; name, date of birth, location of birth and current residence  (F=female, FF=female/female collaboration, FM=female/male collaboration, M=male, MM=male/male collaboration)

A wise artist once said "Art is for young people" and perhaps she was right, in this Biennale 25 artists are born before 1970, and twice as many (50) artist are born post 1970.  (At BOS19  90% of artists were born post-1970!)

Artists in BOS20 are born in a variety of locations.

Many artists move to central cities such as Berlin, London, Paris, New York and 15 of the listed artists live in more than one city.  

Images on each artists page included information about gallery representation, over half of the artists in BOS20 are represented by galleries.  A quick search of the first 20 (25%) of artists in BOS20 list revealed that 85% had previously shown in other international biennales.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Archibald Prize

The CoUNTess email alert has been singing a questioning tune the last two days since the Archibald Portrait Prize finalists have been announced.  "Is CoUNTess counting the Archibald?" they have asked.  OMG is it that time of year again? The auditor has crunched the numbers from the last 10 years to share with you.

The question is - how many women artists have applied? We have requested these statistics from Art Gallery of New South Wales and hope to get an answer from them soon. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

UNSW Galleries

Just days before International Women’s Day and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the exhibition Collection+: Shaun Gladwell opened at UNSW Galleries. Since re/opening in 2013, the gallery has hosted four solo shows for male artists and, disappointingly, no solo shows for female artists.

Prompted by this discrepancy and the many missed opportunities, I decided to follow in the CoUNTess’ footsteps and get counting!

Here are the results:

UNSW Galleries’ worst performance was in the category of Solo Shows, with exhibitions being dedicated to Edward Burtynsky, Shaun Gladwell, Richard Goodwin and Richard Mosse. I hope to see this figure balanced out in a year or two.

The figures for curated Group Shows also aren’t great. Female artists comprise only 34% of artists shown, in comparison to 53% male and 13% collaborating artists. The worst offender was curator Andrew Frost, whose exhibition Conquest of Space: Science Fiction & Contemporary Art exhibited more than double the number of male to female artists, and also included a film program of nine male directors. Female directors were entirely absent. By contrast, David McNeil’s Quo Vadis: The last drawing show represented an equal number of male and female artists. Special mention goes to Ali Groves whose exhibition Mighty Healthy was the only Group Show to represent more women than men.

Finally, I counted the number of artists selected for Prize exhibitions and here I was pleasantly surprised. Men and women were equally represented, tallying 48% each with the leftover 4% representing collaborating artists. The Prize shows include The Blake Prize, John Fries Award and the Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarships. It seems the entry process and the panel-like nature of judging and curating Prize shows produces far more gender-balanced exhibitions. Kudos to the Freedmans, Kath Fries, Megan Cope, Anne Ferran, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Sebastien Goldspink, Lisa Havilah, Tim Johnson, Jay Johnston, Alex Norman and Jess Olivieri.

UNSW Galleries also produced some interesting statistics in terms of Curators and Judges. Women tallied 57% of solo and co-curators and judges, while men tallied only 37%. (The remaining 8% are either unknown or private). These are encouraging statistics and remind us that the artworld is no longer so firmly controlled by the old, white, male guard of yesteryear. 

Overall, UNSW Galleries has exhibited 51% male artists, 40% female artists and 9% collaborating*. My verdict: not terrible, but there’s certainly room for improvement!

* Student shows including Neil Brandhorst’s SEGUE and The Annual were not included in this count.

Dr Louise R Mayhew is an Australian feminist art historian and the SLNSW Nancy Keesing Fellow. She’s currently researching the Women’s Warehouse (1979–81) and contemporary collaboration in Australia.