Sometimes history moves us forward. Sometimes we don’t seem to move at all. A new young artists prize was announced the other day. In a society that does all too little to encourage those who encourage us to imagine, and think and feel in new ways, a new fund supporting artists, especially young artists, is cause for celebration.
So I was in a celebratory mood as I read the write-up — until I went to the flip page. There, the pictures told the story. What was described as a new young artists’ prize “infused with democracy & star power” had an entirely male panel of advisers, and there they were, in black and white, in fact, almost entirely white.
It’s almost 2010. Does anyone remember the Guerrilla Girls?
In years past, feminist masked avengers stalked the art world with data, humor and some enormous gorilla masks. Anonymous women of the art world tagged, postered and pestered the most prestigious art galleries and museums.
One of their most famous featured a nude in a gorilla mask asking:
Do women have to be naked to get into US museums? Less than 3 % of the artists in the Met[ropolitan] Museum are women, but 83 % of the nudes are female.
We’re not talking ancient history. Those were 2004 statistics. The numbers had grown worse since the poster first appeared twenty years earlier.
Back in the 80s the Girls asked in a poster: “When racism and sexism are no longer fashionable, what will your art collection be worth? It’s still a good question and the struggle’s still infuriating.
Guerrilla Girls are still out there. Curators, funders, beware.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.