Episode 17 - Women in Art

Intro Hey everyone, welcome to episode 17 of The Arty Anglais Podcast. The podcast where we talk about art, culture and society to help you learn English naturally. You'll hear me talk about interesting topics, English expressions and English grammar in a different way so you can learn English in context.

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Facebook iTunes Spotify YouTube (Podcast Episodes) Vocabulary

paste-up - an image on paper stuck on to a wall outside or inside as a form or artistic expression

to bite off more than you can chew/bit off more than I could chew (past tense) - to do something that might be too hard or do too many things at once

came about - to happen, especially by chance

put something in a positive light - to look at the positives of a situation

making an impact - cause a change

existential - each person is completely responsible for their own actions to achieve a sense of self

pillar - a column supporting a bridge

paint a picture of something - a way of giving a detailed description of something to describe the situation

parity - the state or condition of being equal, especially as regards status or pay.

hung up on something - when you're concerned or really worried about something

putting a positive spin on it - seeing the positives in a situation that might be bad

palatable - acceptable

perk (noun) - a benefit that someone is entitled to or is an advantage to a job for example

you stand out - you are exceptionally good in comparison to others. You are more recognisable

made headlines - something that gets put in the news

kicked off - started e.g they 'kicked off' the search means - They started their search.

I came across - I found

paved the way - if someone's work 'paves the way', it means they make everyone else's work afterwards possible because someone else already tried and tested it allowing it to be possible.

working at the margins - working in a place where you haven't quite made a breakthrough yet.

get a break - obtain an opportunity (break into the art world)

Playing Cards by Rebecca Clarke and Fredrico Florian

Transcript 00:00:29 Hey everyone, welcome back to Episode 17 of the Arty Anglais Podcast. If this is your first time listening (to the podcast) my name is Tara, and I'm an Australian who is living in Montpellier which is in the south of France. So what I do here is I teach English and art together to kids and teenagers, but I also teach English (just English on it's own) to adults. I also make this podcast to provide a listening resource for people who are learning English who might also be interested in art and culture and creativity or just anyone who might be interested in the topics I'm interested in and what I have to say. I enjoy making this podcast because I spend a lot of time researching the topics that I'm interested in and while I'm researching I learn a lot of things, too! So for me, it's a win-win situation really. I win and you get to win also. Each episode I do you'll be able to find the transcript on our website at www.artyanglais.com/podcast Then you'll need to sign up as a free member of the site. It's free to be a member but you just need to sign up so you can access the transcripts.

00:02:01It has been a little while since you've heard from me on the Arty Anglais Podcast. I've been a little bit busy. I've working on lots of things behind the scenes for Arty Anglais. I've been organising things for my students and I've also been doing a short course in editorial illustration and last week I did my first street art paste-up which was fun. I was able to do it with one of my students. So if you live in Montpellier it's in the quartier méditerranée in Montpellier so see if you can find it.

00:02:36 So the last few weeks I think I bit off more than I could chew'. Which means I didn't have a lot of time to be able to do the podcast. When you say I bit off more than I could chew it means a lot of things were going on and maybe you were struggling to get everything done. So that was me! Running around like a crazy person trying to do too many things at once and I bit off more than I could chew. I started writing this episode for today quite a while ago so I'm happy to be finally sharing it with you. Hooray!

00:03:12 The reason this episode came about was that last year I started watching a series on Arte in French called Kreatur. In Episode 4 of the series, they discussed the visibility of women in art and it got me thinking a lot about how I feel about this. If you're interested, the link to the episode in french is in the transcript notes.

00:03:54 I wasn't surprised to hear some of the statistics about how represented women are in art! So I really wanted to share this with you today but I also want to try and put it in a positive light. So, the idiom to 'put something in a positive light' means to show it in a positive or favourable way. So the issue of gender inequality is something that might make you feel disheartened or upset, however, I wanted to try and tell the story in a positive way. I wanted to put the story into a positive light.

00:04:22 The more I thought about it, the more I realised that when you ask anyone to name three artists, almost always people will respond with men. For example Vincent Van gogh or Henri Matisse or Leonardo Da Vinci. Not always but very often. Or sometimes they will say more men than woman. Occasionally, artists like Frida Khalo or Bridget Riley are mentioned but female artists are mentioned less. I wanted to know what that is? It's not because there aren't any great female artists. I guess it's because they haven't been as celebrated or spoken about as much as their male equivalents. So my way of putting the situation in a positive light is to celebrate female artists and share some with you.

00:05:20 So in today's episode, I want to talk a little about this and also about female artists making an impact in their speciality. So today I'm going to talk a little bit about:

- An organisation who is promoting females in art called AWARE

- A little about the reality for females in the art world (the statistics)

- Some things that have been happening recently (so things that happened last year) to increase female artist exposure

- My list of 6 female artists to share with you that I think are great and I feel need to be found by other people

- Female artists in history and why they were underrepresented.

As I have been doing at the start of the last few episodes, I'm going to start with an artist statement from a street artist in Montpellier called Noon. See her facebook page here.

Noon is an artist who creates geometric and colourful graphics and shapes on different media: paper, concrete and wood. Very often she creates works for paste-ups on the walls in Montpellier. One of her beautiful pieces was actually commissioned by my hairdresser in Montpellier. So every time I go to the hairdressers I get to see her beautiful piece of artwork while I'm getting my hair done which is a bonus. She has also painted one of the pillars under a bridge near my house so I get to enjoy running past it during my daily jogging routine. I've also been using her colouring sheets with my students that she created in collaboration with Posca. She was able to create a colouring sheet with lots of patters that she normally draws Posca. Noon says this about her work. So I'm going to read out her artist statement in her words.


Once a student of the beaux-arts of Montpellier, I live and work between the Languedoc région and Oleron Island. I'm both a designer and illustrator and I create vibrant geometric painting experiments with different media – paper, walls and wood- from which I craft small-scale pièces, collages and murals. Nonetheless, drawing remains the cornerstone of my expression. It is an existential necessity, an imperative, that allows me to convey the perspective, from my studio to the streets. My compositions develop a wealth of details, channelling the decorative arts, tribal influences, and my spiritual connection with all things mineral, aquatic and botanical. In parallel, I work alongside institutions and brands such as Sea Shepherd, learn and skate, NTR, Keep a breast, Metroplastique, Quechua, Posca and many others.

Thank you, Noon for sharing your work with us. It is certainly something very beautiful and something I really enjoy to see in the streets of Montpellier to discover in the streets of montpellier. Certainly, I enjoy discovering your new pieces when they appear in the streets of Montpellier.

The statistics

00:09:21 Okay, so let's start by talking a little bit about the statistics when it comes to women in art. So, Did you know that on average 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries in the U.S are women? In Australia, it's about 40%, in China 25% in Hong Kong 22% and in Germany less than 20%. In 2017, just 22 percent of solo shows presented by London’s major non-commercial galleries starred female artists.

I think for me, I think that really paints a picture. To paint a picture of something means to give you an impression of the reality of the situation. So these statistics (for me) help to paint a picture of the situation. Gender inequality exists in the art world and in the world in general but obviously today we are focusing on art. The truth is, in my opinion, that women have never been treated equally in the art world, and today they remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and in auction houses.

00:10:45 I found a few quotes from different art websites. The website Artsy says - Women working across arts professions make almost $20,000 less per year than men. More than $196.6 billion has been spent on art at auction between 2008 and the first half of 2019. But of this amount, only $4 billion was made by a woman —around 2%. It's minimal and in my opinion it's just not enough (artnet News).

Do you remember the Banksy stunt in 2018? One of his artworks slipped through its frame and shredded itself just after it had been purchased at auction for £860,000 (this came to £1.04m with fees). Well not long before this Jenny Saville’s artwork entitled Propped (1992) sold for £8.25m (or £9.5m with fees) which is almost another 9m on top of what Banksy sold for. This was sold for double its high estimate–to become the most expensive work by a living female artist at auction. However, because of what happened with the Banksy artwork hardly anyone spoke about it! For me, that is just incredible! The fact that this is. still happening in. 2019-2020 is incredible.

00:12:04 In the top 20 most popular exhibitions around the world in 2018, only one was headlined by a female artist: Joana Vasconcelos with her exhibition 'I’m Your Mirror' at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao (The Art Newspaper). She's a Portuguese artist that I'm going to share with you a little bit later on.

00:12:55 The most interesting statistic I took from the Arte Documentary was that as of 2019, Jane Campion is the only female director to have ever won a Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. On the Arte documentary, they also speak about the fact that females are more numerous in art and music schools in France and Germany but they are less represented in galleries than men once they finally finish art school.

00:13:32 In Australia last year the ABC wrote an article which was entitled - Gender representation in Australian Contemporary Art Sector Reaches parity, but Major Galleries Still Lagging. So parity means to reach equality. A report called the Countess Report, revealed women have reached equity across most of the sector for the first time in history in Australia. However, the article talked about how they are still underrepresented in commercial galleries. The first major institution in Australia to commit to change is the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). What they did was they conducted a gender count across their collection and realised that artwork by women made up only a quarter of the Australian collection. So I guess for me that is a positive move in the right direction that they have realised and are moving to change it which is a good thing. I don't want to get to hung up on the negatives because we know it exists. Rather than be hung up on the negatives let's talk a little about what positives with female representation in art. What's happening that's positive in this inequality?

The organisation AWARE

00:15:09 One organisation that is doing something about it is AWARE which stands for: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions and through its work they have been able to demonstrate that female artists are under-represented, if not completely absent, in art books, exhibitions and museum collections.

What they are doing is they are shedding light on inequality and doing something about it. When you shed light on something you are helping to explain the situation. AWARE is shedding light on the inequality that exists between male and female artists.

00:15:56 AWARE is a non-profit organisation, and it was co-founded in 2014 by Camille Morineau. She's an art historian and specialist in the history of women artists. AWARE's goal is the creation and indexation and distribution of information on women artists from the 20th century. In partnership with universities and museums, AWARE organises things like round table discussions, symposiums and study days in France and abroad to discuss some of these issues and some of these artists. They also have prizes for emerging artist and a confirmed artist each year. They also organise museum visits to discover women artists and their art. You can find more information about what they do on their website you can also see videos of Camille speaking. I've been watching a few of her videos when she speaks on YouTube in both French and English and I find her to be extremely passionate about what she does so if it's something you're passionate about I recommend looking at what she. has to say. I've shared a video I found where she talks about a personal anecdote while she was at the Tate modern. So its a very interesting video if you're passionate about this subject.


What happened last year that made me start thinking more about inequality in Art?

00:17:35 At the beginning of last year, I read an article in Grafitti Art Magazine about the women who create Urban Art and the article was entitled ' Where are the Women? In the second paragraph, I nervously laughed at this fact - 5% of artists in the modern section of the Metropolitan Museum in New York are women but 85% of the artworks represent female nudes. So in general females are more often the subject rather than the creators themselves.

00:18:22 One of the artists in the article Koralie who is a female street artist explains that 'it's almost a perk (or something good) to be a woman in street art because you standout. This article introduced me to more female street artists that I knew I should start following. I should start supporting more females artists in street art. Particularly because street art is something I'm interested in and I follow. Now, I instantly recognise their work and I follow a lot about what they are doing regularly in magazines, websites and Instagram of course. In this article (in Graffiti Magazine), I liked the positive way 'women in art were represented. Rather than focusing on inequality, they shared with us the women who are producing work. This is what I think (for me) is more important. To acknowledge (well) that a gender gap might exist however we should be praising and supporting the female artists we know. We should be putting a positive spin on a negative situation. The idiom putting a positive spin on something means to report or relay information to someone else in a way that makes their interpretation or understanding of it more palatable, acceptable, or favourable.

00:19:58 Last year the National Museum for Women in the Arts did exactly that. They put a positive spin on the gender gap. Last year the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC made headlines when it kicked off its #5womenartists social media campaign. What they did was they asked people to name five female artists in order to inspire, support and discuss exhibitions from more than 1000 galleries, museums and cultural institutions and that included places the Tate Modern in London and Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, which both launched shows in response to this hashtag last year. So if you follow the hashtag #5womenartists on instagram (or facebook) you'll be able to see the thousands of people that shared their 5 women artists who they thought were great. So in that same spirit of positivity and sharing, I have decided to share 5 female artists. (well actually I've made my list 6 because it was very hard to narrow down the list).

1 Swoon

00:21:16 She is a mixed media artist who specialises in life-size paste-up prints on brown kraft paper and paper cutouts of human figures. I recently saw some of her work at the Fluctuart Gallery in Paris which is a boat floating on the Seine and a few years ago I saw some of her work in New York. She exhibits all around the world and often her subjects have a very touching or interesting backstory. You learn a lot about her characters and the people she paints. Her artwork has a very deep connection with people so I think that's why I'm so interested in her work.

2 Leila Jeffreys

She is an Australian photographic and video artist who is inspired by nature and well most notably by birds. She began documenting birds by way of photographic portraiture in 2008. My absolute favourite exhibition was in 2012 of her wild cockatoo's birds. I often use her images for inspiration for my own paintings of Australian birds. So check her out. She takes some absolutely fantastic photos of birds. Very detailed.

3 Joana Vasconcelos

She is a Portuguese artist known for her large-scale installations and sculptures. My favourite of hers is one she completed in 2019 (I believe) at Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh Scotland. A colourfully decorated swimming pool decorated with tiles. You can see some of the pictures if you type that into google. As I mentioned she exhibited: I’m Your Mirror at the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2018 which featured a giant mask made from mirrors that you could walk up to and interact with.

4 Louise Bourgeois

Louise was a French-American artist who was well known for her large scale sculpture art. I was lucky enough to see the Sculpture called Maman which means mother in French and it's a sculpture of a large spider just outside the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in Spain. You can stand underneath it, you can take photos from underneath it or all around it. It's quite a large scale sculpture. Very interesting.

5 Abbey Lossing

She is more I would say more of an illustrator, I guess. She based in Brooklyn in New York. She creates quirky and simple illustrations of people and scenes - things like people in the middle of a protest with signs. She has lots of diversity in her images, she uses really bright and dynamic colour palettes so I just love her work. I spend a lot of time looking at the work that she produces.

6 Lucy Sparrow

My sixth and final artist is Lucy Sparrow. She is an interesting artist that I came across recently in a magazine I think. She's a contemporary artist originating from Bath, England. She kind of works at this intersection of contemporary art and craft because she creates thousands of supermarket products and she crochets them and knits them. Then what she does is she displays them as they would be displayed in a supermarket. So they're absolutely giant exhibitions that you can walk through and see all these crotcheted and knitted products. Really interesting stuff.

Now that I have told you my list, I would really love it if you could make your own list and share it with me. You can come and tag me on Instagram, share you 5 or 6 female artists with me.

Galleries representing Woman

00:25:40 What else happened last year that made me become more interested in women in art? I was also happy to read an article in August about a gallery in Melbourne called Finkelstein Gallery. It's Australia’s only art space dedicated to contemporary women and female-identifying artists, which opened in an industrial basement in Prahranin Melbourne with eight local and two international artists. I didn't get an opportunity to see it when I was in Melbourne but hopefully next time I will be able to visit it and see some of the great female artists who are exhibiting there.

Also in November 2019, The Baltimore Museum of Art's new director announced that in 2020 the museum would show only art by women. All of these acts seem to show that society is starting to change. Women want to be valued for who they are as artists rather than trying to be equal to men. We want to be artists not women artists. Phaidon Editors also released a book last year - Great Women Artists (with the word women crossed out). Which is very clever I think because as I said, women artists are just artists. According to The New Yorker - real change is upon us and finally, great female artists are being recognised for the work they have done. I really hope this is true and I hope this continues to evolve in the years to come. I hope it continues to evolve this year.

00:27:33 Something else interesting that happened at the end of last year, I learned of THIS podcast and I helped to support it a podcast project-based her in France that will be released at some point this year entitled Et si Banksy etait une femme, ca changerait quoi? Meaning If Banksy was a woman, what would that change? This will explore the very subject of what I'm exploring now - visibility of females in art and more notably in street art so I'm looking forward to listening to that podcast soon. I will let you know when it's released.

Want to know a little bit of history to understand how far we have come?

00:28:16 So I think it's important, when we are talking about all this, when we are talking about the positivity, is to know a little bit about where we have come from to know how far we have come because for centuries, women were excluded from the records of art history and this was due to a number of factors. In my research I found thee factors to be the most important factors:

- art forms like textiles or “the decorative arts” were often labelled as craft and not “fine art.” so many women who were taking part and working hard in these art forms were not recognised as artists

- many women were also kept from pursuing a general education this really had an. impact on the number of women who were practising in artists.

- Finally, the men who dominated the art world often believed women to be inferior artists. 'Hans Hoffmann once said in a “compliment” to the abstract expressionist painter Lee Krasner “This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.” So I guess that gives you an indication as to why women were so undervalued in the art world.

But then social shifts began to emerge at the beginning of the century and this developed further after World War I with the expanding global unrest. This meant more women had no choice but to enter the workforce and so they were then exposed to social, professional, and political jobs that were previously only for men. During this time in history, we saw artists like Helen Saunders and Jessica Dismorr really pushing to be the only women to make a mark on the Vorticist painting movement. Just quickly the Vorticist painting movement was a very short-lived movement inspired by cubism characterised by angled simplification and lines. I can see how this movement would be very fashionable in today's society particular in street art and graffiti.

French painter Francoise Gilot created a visual style and identity entirely her own despite being known mainly as Pablo Picasso’s lover and working in close proximity to major artists like Henri Matisse in the 1940s. Then in the 1960s there was also a surge of women teaching and studying in art schools in the United States and in Europe. These art schools became sites (as I can imagine) of feminist activity this was to encourage the representation of women in museums and galleries.

This movement of women in the arts fostered I guess more diverse artistic practice because they wanted to redefine what was possible in the studio and I think this really paved the way for many women artists practising today. Out of this era, we saw influential artists like Alma Thomas who was an African-American expressionist painter and art educator best known for her very colourful abstract paintings. She was recently admired by Michelle Obama when the First Lady chose two of her paintings to be exhibited in the White House. I really wonder if you would have the same attention to detail in the Whitehouse today.

00:32:35 These are questions that artists and historians continue to tackle today. Groups like the Guerrilla Girls, a collective of women artists and art professionals. They work really hard to fight discrimination and raise awareness of the issues that women face in the art world. and in the world in general. They do this through staging interventions and protests, wearing gorilla masks to take the focus away from their identities. They reframe the question “Why haven’t there been more great women artists in Western history?” asking instead “Why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout Western history?” As artist and professor, Joan Semmel puts it: '...if there are no great celebrated women artists, that's because the powers that be have not been celebrating them, but not because they are not there.'

So in the spirit of this and becoming more aware, I read an article on the website Refinery recently wrote an article entitled 15 Of Our Favorite Contemporary Artists Get Real About Making It In The Art World. It is worth a read if you want to support the future of female presence in the art world.