Freelands Foundation Issues Report on Gender Disparity, Reveals Award Shortlist for Institutions Working with Female Artists

Spike Island, of Bristol, is shortlisted for the 2018 Freelands Award.


The Freelands Foundation in London has issued a report on gender disparity in the British art world as measured last year with a pointed assertion at its core: “Female artists are still under-represented in the art world in 2017 despite outnumbering men studying in art school.”

During the period reviewed, the study found, women counted for just 28 percent of the artists represented by London’s major commercial galleries. At non-commercial galleries, only 22 percent of exhibitions were devoted to women artists. Within the auction circuit, 3 percent of auction lots in the highest-grossing sales of each of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sales featured art by women. On the biennial circuit, numbers were more positive, with 47 percent of commissions at the most recent editions of the Folkestone Triennial, the Glasgow International, and the Liverpool Biennial having gone to women.

At art departments in universities around the United Kingdom, 41 percent of the highest-paid academic workers were women. The report went on to state that “female students studying creative arts and design continued to outnumber men, while men outnumbered women in the majority of activities that signify the development of an artist’s career.”

Alongside the report—which can be read in full here—the foundation has named the shortlisted arts institutions eligible for its 2018 Freelands Award, which comes with £100,000 (about $133,700) and recognizes an organization in the UK that works with mid-career female artists. (The award specifically cannot go to an institution based in London.) Of the sum given to the winning institution, £25,000 goes to the artist working with the respective organization. The award’s winner and the selected artist will be announced in the fall.

The shortlisted organizations for the 2018 Freelands Award are the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, the Dundee Contemporary Arts, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, the Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast, Spike Island in Bristol, and Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield.

Elisabeth Murdoch, the founder of the Freelands Foundation, chaired this year’s award committee. Other members included Martin Clark, the director of the Camden Arts Centre; artist Susan Hiller; Jenni Lomax, the outgoing director of the Camden Arts Centre; and Beatrix Ruf, who was formerly the director of the Stedelijk Museum. Past winners of the award include the Fruitmarket Gallery, which showed work by Jacqualine Donachie last year, and Nottingham Contemporary, which has planned a Lis Rhodes show for 2019.

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