Memo to Museums: Include More Women Artists

Artist Stamps

Last month, I bought three sheets of the recently released postage stamps commemorating Modern Art in America between 1913-1931. When I got home, I looked more closely and realized that only one of the 12 stamps represented the work of a woman artist: Georgia O’Keefe.

It made me think of this provocative poster:


I immediately renewed my National Museum of Women in the Arts membership.

Then, reading the newspaper yesterday morning, I noticed Christopher Knight’s article “Female artists given short shrift” in The Los Angeles Times. See link to full article below. He’s putting a few local museums on the spot. That’s a good thing. He begins by saying that both the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) are hosting unusual solo exhibitions, both featuring the work of male artists.  He goes on to say that “LACMA and MOCA have recently given short shrift to solo exhibitions of art made by women.”

In the last five years, of 68 solo shows at the two museums, only 15 featured work by women artists.

Knight then adds the Getty Museum into his survey, looking specifically at the number of women photographers whose work has been exhibited at the Getty. From 2008 to 2012, 83% of the solo exhibitions explored work by male photographers.

On a more positive note, he makes note that the in the same five years, the UCLA Hammer Museum’s solo shows represented both male and female artists equally: 50% men, 50% women. Knight points out that “it’s worth noting that, of these four museums, only the Hammer has a woman occupying the director’s office.”

What can you do? Begin by noticing when you go to museums and galleries if you see work by women artists. If you don’t and it bothers you, send an email to the museum director. Also consider joining the National Museum for Women in the Arts (NMWA). With your $50 membership, you’ll receive (3x each year) an interesting and lovely magazine with articles about women artists. Visit the Museum’s website to learn more about women artists

NMWA advocates for women artists—and you can, too.

Art is a reflection of society. If the artistic landscape neglects women, what does that say about society as a whole? For centuries, social conventions limited the training available to women artists, the subjects they could render, and the ways they could market art to patrons. Gender bias is less obvious today, but contemporary women artists still face obstacles and disparities. Their historical precursors still deserve to have their stories told.

Link to Christopher Knight’s article in The Los Angeles Times:,0,6560536.story




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