Get the Facts
“People in the art world want to think we are achieving parity more quickly than we are.” — Susan Fisher Sterling, NMWA Director
The truth is that women have never been treated equally in the art world, and today they remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and auction houses. Learn about gender inequity in the arts with some eye-opening facts.
Demographics & Compensation
- 51% of visual artists today are women; on average, they earn 81¢ for every dollar made by male artists. (National Endowment for the Arts)
- Women working across arts professions make almost $20,000 less per year than men. (Artsy)
- ArtReview’s 2017 Power 100 list of the “most influential people in the contemporary art world” was 38% women—though this is an improvement from the 2016 list, which was only 32% women. (Artsy)
Museums & Galleries
- Of 590 major exhibitions by nearly 70 institutions in the U.S. from 2007–2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists. (The Art Newspaper)
- Only 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries are women. In Australia, it’s about 40%; in Germany, less than 20%. (Hyperallergic, Countess Report, artnet News)
- The good news is that, while in 2005, women ran 32% of the museums in the United States, they now run 47.6%—albeit mainly the ones with the smallest budgets. (Association of Art Museum Directors)
- Women still lag behind men in directorships held at museums with budgets over $15 million, holding 30% of art museum director positions and earning 75¢ for every dollar earned by male directors. (Association of Art Museum Directors)
- The top three museums in the world, the British Museum (est. 1753), the Louvre (est. 1793), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (est. 1870) have never had female directors.
- From the 16–19th centuries, women were barred from studying the nude model, which formed the basis for academic training and representation. (Women, Art, and Society)
- Though women earn at least half of the MFAs granted in the U.S., and 75% of the art degrees in Australia, they struggle to gain proportional representation. (Hyperallergic, Countess Report)
The Art Market
- Only five women made the list of the top 100 artists by cumulative auction value between 2011-2016. (artnet News)
- In the list of top 100 individual works sold between 2011-2016, only two artists were women. Of those 100 artworks, 75 of them came from just 5 male artists. (artnet News)
- There are no women in the top 0.03% of the auction market, where 41% of the profit is concentrated. Overall, 96.1% of artworks sold at auction are by male artists. (Bocart et al., Glass Ceilings in the Art Market)
- The discount for women’s art at auction is 47.6%; even removing the handful of “superstar” artists that skew the data, the discount is still significant at 28%. (Adams, et al., Is Gender in the Eye of the Beholder?)
- The most expensive work sold by a woman artist at auction, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, sold in 2014 for $44.4 million—over four hundred million dollars less than the auction record for a male artist: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold in 2017 for $450.3 million, shattering the previous record of $179.4 million for a work by Picasso. (artnet News, New York Times)
Art Shows, Awards & Publications
- The 2009 Venice Biennale edition featured 43% women; in 2013, it dropped to 26%. In 2015, it was 33%, and in 2017 was 35%. No major international exhibition of contemporary art has achieved gender parity. (ARTnews, Artsy)
- Only 32% of the winners of the Turner Prize, one of the most well known visual art awards, have been women. In 2017, Lubaina Himid became the first woman of color to win. (Wikipedia, Hyperallergic)
- Only 27 women (out of 318 artists) are represented in the 9th edition of H.W. Janson’s survey, Basic History of Western Art—up from zero in the 1980s.
- In the field of architecture, only 7% of the Pritzker Prize winners and less than 3% of AIA Gold Medal winners, were women. (Pritzker Architecture Prize, American Institute of Architects)
Here’s What the Guerrilla Girls Have to Say
The Guerrilla Girls is a group of women artists and arts professionals who fight discrimination.
The group reframes the question: “Why haven’t there been more great women artists throughout Western history?” Instead, they ask: “Why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout Western history?”
The Guerrilla Girls created the poster, Horror on the National Mall! (shown above), in honor of NMWA’s 20th Anniversary. The poster even highlights our living founder: “Ever wonder why Billie Holladay started the National Museum of Women in the Arts? Now you know!”