Artists ,

K8 Hardy Responds

The following is a response to Maura Reilly’s article “Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes” about the current statistics of Women in the Art World. Our coverage begins with our Editor’s Letter.

K8 Hardy, Form #21, 2010, from the “Position” series. COURTESY THE ARTIST

K8 Hardy, Form #21, 2010, from the “Position” series.


Born in 1977, lives in New York City

It’s important that we continue to talk about the reality of the sexism in the art world. There’s a code of silence that envelops you once you get closer to being an insider. It’s crass to talk about sales, because artists are above sales. I feel so lucky to have had the success I’ve had that I’m hesitant to complain on a public platform. I’m not really sure if men feel this way, or if this hesitation and minimizing gratefulness is part of the female brainwashing. Of course, there’s an exception for everything, and this is part of what makes sexism in the art world so slippery. Art is so circumstantial, but the figures relay the reality.

At the moment, my work is in a few museum and private collections. However, I am not in the game of making six figures a year from being collected, or anywhere near that. Despite all the press and exposure I have, and despite having had my work in innumerable art fairs, it seems incredibly difficult to accumulate the momentum of really being collected or exhibited.

I feel like I’ve been hitting the glass ceiling for four or five years. I can’t make enough money to hire an assistant, and I can barely cover my studio expenses. I’m responsible for making a lot of decisions that don’t lead me toward commercial success, and the integrity of my work is my priority, but I rarely see a man with similar credentials making so little.

The most frustrating difference is that my male peers have many more solo shows, which are necessary to developing their careers and developing as artists. They are in kunsthalle exhibitions all over Europe. I recently had my first solo show at one of these institutions. It was in the basement, and the extremely macho male painters were upstairs in the exhibition space. According to this institution, this was a fair placement because of the male artists’ numbers overall, their statistics. Our experiences were not part of the consideration, so you can’t even get close to equality with ambitious numbers.

It’s not my goal to be as rich as my male peers. I don’t care so much about that. I want to work and I want to survive, and I believe my audience expects as much from me.

The biggest inequity in the art world develops out of race and class privilege. The elephant in these numbers comes down to race and to the fact that we are really considering mostly white men and white women.

This is one reason I participated in founding the group W.A.G.E. Artists need modest fees and rights that enable them to exhibit and survive without losing their jobs or the income from the time they need to take off from work. This is a small divide that few can pass without the privilege of education or class.

A version of this story originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 53.

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