Challenging contemporary women artists’ inverted pyramid of success…

In recent years there has been a marked and steady increase in the numbers of women artists shown around the world in contemporary art biennales. n.paradoxa has published many times different statistics on the volume of women artists in biennales and at Documenta on the pages of the printed journals and alongside its reproduction of works by women artists from these exhibitions. It could even be said that one of the most distinctive features of “contemporary art” in the last 20 years has been the rise of women artists from many different parts of the world in international exhibitions in a scale unprecedented in the 20th and now 21st century.  Something the mainstream media has still to catch up with in its continuing neglect of women artists as subjects for reviews. You can find on the KT press website, references to more information on statistics about the changing fortunes of women artists’ representation as artists, in exhibitions, in awards etc as published by a wide range of authors.

It seems that any mention or attempt to monitor the art world in terms of statistics leads to outcries of horror, since talent is supposed to transcend any social grouping and quota systems are shunned in a sub-section of the culture industry which still relies on “originality” or worse “genius” as its only measure of individual worth.

I wanted to draw attention to a model for a pyramid of success which was devised to demonstrate the difficulty women still encounter in career progression and to ask the question has this been challenged or changed in recent years?

The model of a pyramid of success is from: Annette Brinkmann, Andreas Joh. Weisand Frauen im Kultur- und Medienbetrieb III: Fakten zu Berufssituation und Qualifizierung / Women in the Arts and Media: Qualification and Professional Outlook (Germany: Zentrums Fur Kulturforschung, 2001). It is also reproduced on p.116 of Danielle Cliche, Ritva Mitchell, Andreas Joh. Weisand Pyramid or Pillars: Unveiling the Status of Women in Arts and Media Professions in Europe (Germany: ARCult Media/ERICarts/ZfKf, 2001).

The model (based on figures in Germany in the 1990s) shows how women artists still have a long way to make progress:

The pinnacle of the pyramid is their presence as:

13.5% of works by women in Federal Art Collections

18% of female professors at Art Universities

22% of female directors, Art museums

27% average female percentage at exhibitions in art museums

32% of main and honorary prizes in the visual arts won by women

42% of all freelance employees in the visual arts are women

55% of students in the visual arts are women.

(This represents the bottom of the pyramid!)

They included the figure of 22% of female artists at Documenta X but this has shifted from the time of the report in the late 1990s: to 29% in documenta XI, 46% in documenta XII, and back to 38% in documenta XIII.

Have things changed? Or does this pattern of success still hold true over a decade later?

Katy Deepwell, Editor of n.paradoxa



About nparadoxa

n.paradoxa is an international feminist art journal, published since 1996 online and 1998 in print website: n.paradoxa is edited by Katy Deepwell
This entry was posted in contemporary women artists, Feminism and Art, feminism and art education, Feminist Art, feminist artists, n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal, Women Artists and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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