Updated: Nov 23, 2020
As you can see, the Guerrilla Girls found so many advantages to being a woman artist! Isn't it fantastic? Don't you just love the lack of recognition? I do have an anecdote about this, but I cannot mention their real names, so let's call the Woman and Man - I know, super original! That's another advantage of being a female artist. I should add that to the list. I digress. Story time:
Approximately eight years ago, Woman and Man had a two person show at a well known Gallery in the USA. Looking at Man's CV, his first group show was in 2012 in this Gallery and his first Solo show in 2010 in his home country. Woman had her first group show in 2000 in Spain followed by a 2003 Solo show also in Spain. Man participated in a total of 26 group shows and had 6 solo shows. Woman participated in a total of 77 group shows and had 17 solo shows. While they both sell most of their pieces, can you guess who, two years ago, got to be represented by a London blue chip gallery? And would you believe if I told you that for working for the same amount of hours of a large scale painting, Man charges approximately 10x more than woman? He does. I checked.
The sad thing here is that you can probably replace Man and Woman's name with any artist you know, check back and see that it is a pattern. Woman has been painting for a least 12 years longer, if not more because she wanted to make sure her paintings were in fact good enough to show at a gallery. These are hyperreal pieces carefully painted with the smallest paintbrush possible on a 150x100cm canvas and sold for a 5 figure number, an incredibly low five figure number. I have seen her paintings in person and they are absolutely stunning, well loved, and in the last ten years, she sells 90% of what she paints. But what makes her charge less? Is it lack of confidence? Is it because she believes that if she charged more, she probably wouldn't sell? The belief that art should be affordable and she wants to make her artwork accessible?
Then we have Man. With less than 10 years experience, shares videos of himself painting in a large airy studio with excellent light. He is wearing expensive looking suit pants, a shirt, shiny leather shoes. He uses a long handled brush to place some expressionistic strokes on a large canvas and after an hour or so, considers his artwork ready. This piece will then go to a gallery and will be sold for a five figure number. Some of his earlier pieces revolved around classical figurative with a twist - nothing special as I have seen several artists do that and yes, mostly male artists.
Of course, this is a specific case, and I would have to collate data from many shows and many artists to conclude that men are more brass and confident and tend to add several zeros to their prices while women tend to add fewer zeros, think about it, and probably remove another zero. But we know that there is a huge disparity, or at least was, in businesses with men getting paid more than women and it still happens. It feels that women are always fighting an uphill battle for their rights and a week ago The United States signed an anti-abortion declaration "The “Geneva Consensus Declaration” calls on states to promote women’s rights and health – but without access to abortion – and is part of a campaign by Trump administration". But again, I digress, although this just shows how woman aren't allowed to be in charge of their bodies, and how Patriarchal Culture wants to dictate everything, from women's bodies, to how much they get paid. To the point that it has taken several years for women to try and break from that mold and say "hang on, why are you paid more? Am I not worth it? Am I not doing the same thing as you - but some times better, because I feel I need to prove something?" Women always feel the need to have to prove they can do something by overachieving and over-excelling at tasks which are usually considered a man's job. That when women paint, it's a hobby.... Two years ago, I went to visit what remains of my family and friends in Brazil and was catching up with an Aunt and she said something along the lines of "Oh, I have seen you paintings, they're beautiful, but isn't it an expensive hobby?" I remember my blood started to boil and my face flushed, but I calmly replied that "I do sell my paintings and have sold a few and had a few commissions". Of course, not as many as I wish I had.
Do I have a problem adding an extra zero to my prices? Yes. Do I generally feel not good enough? Definitely. But I started saying fuckit... I now paint what I feel like painting, following my endless curiosity and themes that make me question the world around me, the treatment of women in today's societies and tending more towards what is decidedly Feminist art because apparently, that's what is going to be assumed anyway, right? Or a feminine perspective? Oh yes, definitely, I am a Woman after all, I see the world in accordance to my experiences and that is obviously what I am going to paint. There's nothing wrong with it. So why is it that there's always a negative connotation to it? Even the Guerrilla Girls point that out in their updated 2015 poster as if it were a negative thing. Well, that's a topic in itself and I will explore that next week.
Thank you for reading and for more on the Gender Pay Gap in the art world, please click here!