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.
Curatorial group founded in 2008, based in Brooklyn, New York
Our generation lives in a more clouded/coded world, where we all know “what’s right” to some extent and yet inequality persists. A socialized political correctness keeps much outright discrimination at bay. Cleopatra’s age group is one that remembers a (which-wave?) riot grrrl. (Internally and externally, there is a winking reference to that era.) A lot of likeminded girl-power press is dropped upon Cleopatra’s, though we have never clearly stated any feminist mission or criteria. Do we self-identify as feminists? Sure. How does one perceive us now that that label is upon us? Many people introduce us as an all-female-led project—people have asked, “You only show women, right?” The answer is far from that and yet there is still some efficacy to the name, the fact that we are women speaking more than our statistics do.
We might add that the number of women working in the art world, attending art schools, etc., has increased dramatically—maybe a key difference is that we’re able to participate more as service workers and students, but that it’s incredibly hard to move past these entry or staff roles. We’re now encouraged to take part, but often so schools and galleries can make money off us.
In a recent tally of all artists and practitioners Cleopatra’s has worked with, 47 percent are women. We’ve done about 98 projects; 22 percent of exhibitions have been either solo-female or all-women exhibitions, 32 percent of exhibitions have been either solo-male or all-men exhibitions—that leaves 46 percent mixed shows that are pretty much 50/50. Not bad stats but we could do better. That’s without even trying—and not counting—until seven years into a ten-year project. Does it make a difference that we are all women running the place when the stats come out a bit more equally? We’re not sure.
People might find hope looking at the stats of small spaces and institutions off the beaten path. These secondary institutions are making an attempt, but like the women artists who don’t get shown, the women-run spaces don’t get attention.
Hands down the biggest observation that we have made in the role of being four perfect targets for artists to approach, pitch projects to, ask for a studio visit, etc., is that probably nine out of ten people to hit us up are men. We call them squeaky wheels. Squeaky wheels get grease. More women artists need to approach venues and curators, pitch projects, ask for the studio visit, etc., and become patrons of the types of spaces that they want to see exist, that have the programming that includes them. They need to approach people who already support women and make sure to go to those shows and help promote those spaces. It’s a reciprocal relationship.
A version of this story originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 52.