Gallery Tally is a crowd-sourced, social engagement art project in which 800+ artists from around the world collect and visualize statistical data regarding ratios of male and female artists in top contemporary art galleries. Los Angeles based artist Micol Hebron invites artists (male and female) to make one poster for each gallery tallied, in whatever style or medium they choose, the only stipulation being a poster size of 24” x 36”. The project started in the fall of 2013 with galleries in Los Angeles followed by the exhibit “Margin Release Right” at West LA College Art Gallery in November, and then spread to New York at the start of 2014 with an exhibition of 270 posters at For Your Art space in Los Angeles.
Now the project is expanding to include galleries from all over: Berlin, London, Chicago, Santa Fe, Portland, Seattle, Des Moines, Omaha and now, Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, like many cities, has a larger amount of collective and non-commercial art spaces in general (upwards of 62) and not as many commercial spaces (we have counted eleven). The Gallery Tally Project counts only representing galleries and gives a significant idea for how the art scene in Pittsburgh, and in a larger context, is shaping.
Pittsburgh-based artist April Friges has been involved in the project since day one (she made posters for LA Louver Gallery and Thomas Soloman Gallery last year and New York Sargent’s Daughters Gallery this year). She has known Hebron since she moved to LA in 2005 and was part of “LA Art Girls,” a nonhierarchical voluntary group that gathers to provide mutual support and dialogue. On the importance of the Gallery Tally Project, Friges states:
“Absolutely…there is and always has been inequality in the representation of women artists – and it starts with the galleries who choose to give that representation to such artists.”
Pittsburgh-based artist Julia Cahill agrees with the need to make this known: “…the Gallery Tally project is brilliant in the way that it has used social media to gain artists to participate and a large audience to see the project. It is important to see the percentage of female versus male artists being represented by galleries today. In fact, I have found that it is shocking to see that there is still such a wide gap between female and male artists represented by galleries across the nation despite the overwhelming majority of college art students being female.”
Indeed, according to Hebron, approximately 70 to 75 percent of MFA students are female, but the overall average of women being represented in galleries in New York and Los Angeles is 32.3%. Interestingly, the Pittsburgh count shows just a 4% difference in the male and female representation disparity; half of the galleries tallied represent less than half women, and four of the galleries represent more women; and one lies right at 50%–though to note, the number of galleries tallied in Pittsburgh eleven, is a ripe difference from that of LA and New York City. A quick count of exhibitions in 2013 of two of Pittsburgh nonprofit art organizations, the Mattress Factory and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, also shows a fairly equal representation between the sexes.
|Gallery||Total Artists Represented (2014)||Male Artists Represented||% of Male Artists||Female Artists Represented||% of Female Artists|
|Box Heart Gallery||22||10||45%||12||55%|
|Christine Frechard Gallery||14||5||36%||9||64%|
|Eclectic Art & Objects||23* Featured Artists/50 Counting Antiquities||17* /43||74%* /86%||5* /7||26%*/14%|
|Galerie Werner** 6 artists are “unknown” and so not counted||14||10||71% of||4||29%|
|Gallery on 43rd St.||14||7||50%||7||50%|
|Concept Art Gallery||65||47||72%||18||28%|
|Morgan Contemporary Glass||230||91||40%||139||60%|
|Mattress Factory 2013 exhibitions||22||10||45%||12||55%|
|Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 2013 exhibitions||108||53||49%||55||51%|
Because of Pittsburgh’s fairly equal counts, Pittsburgh-based artist Miss Dingo feels a bit differently about the project. On the poster she made for Concept Gallery: “I went with this image because of the given statistics of Pittsburgh galleries it appears there are a lot of women being shown in most galleries more than men except Concept Art Gallery which doesn’t bother me one bit. …To me as an artist, I want to be shown for my work not my gender.”
A few other cities tallied—Omaha, NE, Denver, CO, Columbus, OH, and Chicago, IL, the numbers on average are favorable to male artists. In Denver’s eleven commercial galleries (with a total of 495 artists) the average is 62% male to 38% female. While commercial galleries in Columbus are a bit more equal: 639 artists, 56% male), the percentage of male artists exhibited in 2013 at the Columbus Museum of Art and Wexner Center were 86% and 76% respectively. Male representation is heavier in Chicago’s commercial galleries: 597 artists in 26 counted galleries with 62% male. Omaha runs slightly lower for male artists represented. The combined count of the galleries tallied from these cities (73) is less than the number of galleries tallied in Los Angeles (98). However, the average among these smaller cities lies at a slightly higher rate for male representation.
|City||# Commercial Galleries Tallied||# total artists represented||% Male||% Female|
(As tallied by volunteers of the Gallery Tally Project, and compiled by Sally Deskins, 6/3/14.)
As Hebron pointed out to Hyperallergic in March, the commercial gallery system is a wide-reaching and influential facet of the art world and in artist’s career and visibility; putting the numbers out there in such a way encourages gallerists, collectors, writers and artists to address the issue.
Of course, when one thinks of such a project, the Guerilla Girls is bound to come up, whose efforts in 1989 revealed the staggering gender inequality of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and continue to anonymously create posters, billboards, books and travel the world doing performances to unveil the discrimination in politics, film, art and pop culture.
Friges wrote of Hebron’s method: “The Tally project – unlike the Guerrilla Girls – is more localized, focusing on galleries rather than museums and yet it is more accessible nationally. Micol is looking at a larger number of misrepresentations (because there are more galleries than there are museums) – which is precisely where an artist gets their start – to end in the Museum. A step-down approach of sorts –(Micol utilizes social media to really push awareness and build relationships) – but right at the source! She is also not just focusing on the inequalities. Many posters are also created by men and give nod by the artists who choose galleries who represent fairly.” As Friges pointed out, Hebron’s project is more local—the contributing artists named, and inclusive to genders and career levels, making the project impactful on many levels.
In fact, any artist of any level or gender identification can join the Gallery Tally Facebook group, send Micol a personal email, help tally and/or create a poster. (I am a participating artist and tallier.) Hebron and the volunteers contact the galleries tallied to inform them of their count if a poster has been made and is exhibited; for the purposes of this article, I contacted the Pittsburgh galleries tallied to inquire about their opinion on the topic, to a generally friendly response from three out of the eleven.
Box Heart Gallery Owner and Director Nicole Capozzi wrote that although gender is not her first priority when selecting artists, “I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider it at all—more often than not, I select the woman artist over the man.” Capozzi makes it a point to diversify further her exhibiting artists with her “Art Inter/National” annual exhibit “to bring artists of different races, cultures and therefore experiences into the mix as well.”
She continues: “My formula doesn’t always give women artists an edge in my gallery, but it is an intentional bias that tries to level the playing field while recognizing that women artists are usually doing a better job of addressing diverse views of our world…I’m not interested in exhibiting trends; the heart of my commitment focuses on identifying artists that advocate for socio-emotional and socio-cultural equality through the artwork they produce.”
Recently opened Revision Space Gallery Director Cindy Lisica expressed similar sentiments: “Gender certainly cannot be ignored, however, the gender of the artist doesn’t necessarily play a role in how their work is viewed or judged…Because Revision Space represents a relatively fair number of women and men, with a slightly higher percentage of women at the moment, there has certainly been some consideration in regards to the group and solo exhibitions, maintaining equality as far as ratio of solos and group shows.”
Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery, half of whose 230 represented artists are Pittsburgh artists, has 60% female artists, but the gallery representative commented flatly: “We have had two shows that were dedicated to women or work made by women. Other than that, we do not pay attention to gender when choosing/ inviting artists.”
Artist Cahill, who has exhibited at The Mattress Factory and The Andy Warhol Museum and other Pittsburgh nonprofit galleries but has not pursued representation by a commercial gallery, is fairly optimistic about her homeplace: “I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for all of my life, including my time attending art school, and I’ve found that the art scene in Pittsburgh provides an abundant amount of support and opportunities for artists…I was initially pleased to find that average representation in Pittsburgh galleries was very close to 50/50, yet it was shocking to see that there still were a great number of galleries that do have a much higher percent of male artists than female…The contemporary art being shown and sold through galleries has the potential to actually influence the content of the art being made today.”
Revision Space’s Owner Lisica said of Pittsburgh: “I think women artists and curators have an active and meaningful role in Pittsburgh galleries, historically and currently. We have more to see and develop as far as gallerists and collectors, and major roles in museums are a different story as well.”
Perhaps this is true; and these factors might be counted in the future. As the Gallery Tally project evolves, Hebron and other group members have expressed interest and intent to track numbers of male, female, LBGTQ and parents. Other areas of interest in tallying include the gender count of MFA student and graduates, collectors, gallery directors, curators, arts writers, sales at auctions, articles written about, and solo exhibitions at top museums, to name a few.
For now, Hebron continues to grow the online group, where participating artists get a chance to have an online dialog with artists from all over about these topics and feminism, and start new projects and collaborations.In May, while the exhibition ran in Los Angeles, KCET began recording a short documentary of the project. Photographer Safi Alia Shabaik took portraits of some of the poster-makers that will be included in a book Hebron is putting together including a profile on each poster and artist. She is also planning the next exhibit in a different locale (set for this fall) and still taking more artist volunteers and posters from around the world.
Cahill created a poster for Panza Gallery in Pittsburgh and is enthused about the project as a whole: “…the Gallery Tally project will raise awareness of the large number of misrepresentations in galleries. The ultimate goal, from my point of view, is for artists to be selected by their work and not their gender and this will result in more female artists and their powerful art to be present in galleries.”
Friges will also continue with the project: “I participate in these exhibitions and collective projects not as one voice, but as a community of women artists intended to speak out against institutions, as we ask them to consider their choices when deciding what artists to represent and exhibit. We need to continue to challenge the art world and create social change in the way women are represented in the art world.”
Sally Deskins is a writer for Les Femmes Folles, a volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with online journal entries, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; femmesfollesnebraska.tumblr.com.