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Art and Politics: Republicans Blamed for Gender Inequality within the Art World? Part 1

by Brian Sherwin on 3/16/2012 11:05:24 PM

This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 18,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

In recent days I've noticed a trend in mainstream art world buzz -- that being, NY art world 'insiders' are blaming 'right-wing extremists' (code words for ALL Republicans if you follow these art writers for very long) for the gender gap that can be found within the gallery world. I, for one, want to see more gender equality within the art world as a whole. That said, I think the NY gallery world really needs to take a look in the mirror before blaming the Republican party for the gender inequality that exists within the art world -- OR before speaking about inequality in general (in my opinion, religious and political bias reigns in most NY art galleries -- more on that in Part 2).


Edward Winkleman, a notable NY based art dealer and art blogger, recently added fuel to the 'blame all conservatives for everything' fire by writing about gender inequality within the art world -- which pointed to what some conservatives have done concerning other political/social issues involving gender. The snarkfest, in my opinion, was full of the 'us vs. them' type of political rhetoric that has become a staple for both the far-right and far-left (Same beast, different fur). Point blank -- the article hinted at blaming conservatives for the gender issues facing the art world within the United States (at least that is what I took from it while reading between the lines). In my opinion, the NY art world -- from art galleries to art magazines -- should accept some, if not all, of the blame for the gender inequality that exists within their 'world'. That inequality has nothing to do with politics (at least not in the context that Winkleman implies) -- it is about choices made by business owners.


I, for one, think that Mr. Winkleman -- and several other NY gallery owners for that matter-- really need to take a look in the mirror before using political/social conservatives as a scapegoat in this context. NY art dealers need to look at the unwritten business standards, if you will, that they have allowed to dominate within their community in regard to gender. Point blank -- one could suggest that some NY art world 'insiders' want to mask the gender inequality their community has long established by pointing political fingers rather than accepting blame for 'business as usual'. I suppose that behavior -- that want of not becoming a target for social criticism -- is to be expected with groups like Occupy Museums and Occupy Art World lurking about.


This is how I see it: The commercial gallery world is a world of private businesses -- when everything is said and done, gallery owners decide what is shown. Thus, if gender inequality is rampant within the high profile NY gallery world -- and on the pages of high profile art magazines, which cover those galleries, for that matter -- one should blame the art dealers operating those 'prestigious' art galleries (which end up in the art magazines) instead of blaming politicians or specific political parties. Point blank -- art dealers (and it trickles down to curators, art critics and art writers in general) should accept some responsibility for the 'world' they shaped -- a 'world' that appears to favor artists who happen to be male.


While talking about conservatives Winkleman suggested that it is, "still very important to call a pig a "pig." To draw attention to disparity and slam those who would promote it.". I would suggest that the same could be said of some liberals as well. I'll narrow that further by suggesting that the same could be said of some art dealers (Again, Winkleman needs to take a closer look at the 'world' around him). A pig, is a pig, is a pig -- no matter his or her political preference, right? No matter his or her business connections -- or social status within the community, right? We all know that your average NY gallery owner is extremely politically/socially 'liberal' -- or at least upholds that image publicly. That is NOT a generalization -- and yes... some of them are pigs. If not by words... by actions -- they are 'pigs'... promoters of gender inequality (and other forms of prejudice as well -- more on that in Part 2).


It will be interesting to see if Mr. Winkleman actively draws attention to 'promoters' of gender inequality within the NY gallery world -- it will be interesting to see if he actively "slams" fellow art gallery owners and other 'insiders' (including art critics) who clearly favor -- even if unknowingly -- artists who happen to be male. I want to see no holds barred responses to those 'promoters' of gender inequality based on the charge of his own words. It is 'bare knuckled' criticism time, Edward -- Mat Gleason can teach you a thing or two if you need a few pointers. The challenge is made Mr. Winkleman. Do it. Put up or shut up. OR -- throw in the towel rather than risk burning bridges within your 'world'. My gut tells me those 'fights' will never happen. Just words -- no action.


In closing, I'll admit that my opinion has changed some on this issue over the last year-- perhaps art dealers, obviously not all of them, are to blame for the gender inequality that exists within the art world today? As in, perhaps the exhibition / curatorial choices that clearly prefer males over females within the gallery world is more about shrewd business decisions than the downside of social conditioning. More specifically -- could it be that gender inequality within the art world is rooted within the NY gallery world in general -- and trickles down into other US art communities? After all, like it or not -- New York is the heart of the US art world... at least on the global stage (and as presented in the majority of our art museums). The NY art gallery community is a major art market player -- and has helped to shape that market... gender inequality included. What do YOU think?


Take care, Stay true,


Brian Sherwin


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Related Posts:

Why Occupy Wall Street makes some art world insiders nervous

Art World Age of Discovery: Is it time to discover art off the beaten path in the United States?

Occupy Museums: What do you want from OUR museums?

Art Critics, Art Criticism, and the Political Machine

Art & Prejudice: Dealing with Sexism, Racism, and Ageism in the Art World

Social Conditioning: Do Art Professionals Unknowingly Fuel Sexism in the Art World?

Art and Politics: Why there should be a balance of political views expressed visually at public funded art museums

The Destruction of Andres Serrano's 'Piss Christ' fuels Debate and Hate due to Piss Journalism

The Bias and Hypocrisy of the Mainstream Contemporary Art World: Does it bother you?

The Rise of Politically Conservative Art-- Just Under the Surface

United States Arts Funding: Should public funding go to US born artists instead of non-resident artists?

Topics: Art Business | Brian Sherwin | FineArtViews | Think Tank 

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kara rane
hi Brian-
thank You so much for writing about this topic. When statistics are presented on these inequalities, it is not only shocking, it actually hurts to feel this exclusion. Why would this be occurring in an arena that prides itself on being so open? Especially, when many gallery owners and art collectors are women. Yet, having participated in the NY art world I can tell you the bias is real.

Brian Sherwin
Kara -- Thanks for adding your thoughts. I agree -- there really is no good excuse for the gap. Especially when you consider that the average art school grad is female. So there are artists out there -- who happen to be female -- who are most likely very deserving of gallery attention... but we just don't see that. So much so that an exhibit of all females is viewed as a special event. Balance is more important than holding special exhibits in my opinion.

Your typical NY art collector leans far-left. Isn't it interesting that those collectors have put up with the gender inequality established by art dealers in their community? They are supporting gender inequality if you think about it. They are paying for it.

They should heed Winkleman's opinion and call a "pig a pig" by avoiding art galleries that have a history of showing mostly artwork by white males. I think the gallery world is heading for a major public backlash from the politically Right and Left. I think the same of nonprofits like art museums. People are fed up. People are starting to see just how political the professional world of art is and how it robs us of some of our heritage and culture.

Sallie Jager
This is a historical fact of life, I'm sure if you think about it you can come up with woman throughout history that used pen names to make their work more marketable. Writers and painters.

Being a woman and a painter I have experienced this myself.
However, with a triple whammy of also being a evil Republican! Even other painters can have a hard time dealing with this one!

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your article. It gave me a chuckle!


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