The anonymous feminist art collective Guerrilla Girls appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Wednesday night and talked about gender inequality in the art world. The collective is known for wearing gorilla masks and using the names of deceased female artists as monikers. Kathe, Zubeida, and Frida were the members that spoke with Colbert.
The audience applauded when the host held up an image—pictured at right—of the collective’s famous poster that asks, “Do women have to be naked to get into U.S. museums?” (It cites some depressing statistics about the number of female artists in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum versus the number of women in nude portraits at the Met.)
“Can art speak for itself,” Colbert asked, “or does it have to be gender-identified?”
“Well, every decision, aesthetic decision, has a value behind it,” Frida—wearing a mask and a name tag that read “Frida”—said. “And if all the decisions are being made by the same people, then the art will never look like the whole of our culture. And right now the art world is kind of run by billionaire art collectors who buy art that appeals to their values. We say art should look like the rest of our culture. The history of art, it’s not really a history of art, it’s a history of power.”
This brought out more applause from the audience. What followed was a grim exchange about why the Guerrilla Girls, which was formed in 1985, have been together for so long.
Colbert: In 1985, the Guggenheim had zero solo shows by women artists, the Metropolitan had zero, the Whitney had zero, and the Modern had one. Thirty years later the Guggenheim had one, the Metropolitan had one, the Whitney had one, and the Modern had two.
Zubeida: Yeah, and that’s the progress we’ve made in 30 years. And that’s the whole problem, because a lot of people thought that it was an issue in the ’70s and the ’80s and then it got solved, but it hasn’t. We still see such terrible numbers, and that’s why, sadly, we need to keep doing this.
Watch the whole video below, or through this link. The Guerrilla Girls segment begins at about 31:10.