Why do women still get so little attention and credibility at the top echelons of the art world? To answer that question, it helps to untangle historical concerns and contemporary ones. Art was a man’s affair for most of Western art history, and the paucity of women artists in earlier eras ingrained a conception that the artistic disposition is naturally male, while women will always be the exception. Yet in her landmark 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?, the art historian Linda Nochlin demolished the misconception that women lack the artist gene. She showed that from the Renaissance until the turn of the last century, it was “institutionally impossible” for women to become artists of the first rank. Women were not admitted to art academies and denied apprenticeships. They were excluded from social circles that led to advancement or patronage. They were also unable to participate in life drawing classes until the 19th Century; even after that the models had to be draped. All of that has ended – but the image of the artist as a solitary male genius that arose from those circumstances is still with us.
MoMA, to its credit, knows it has a problem, and it has been trying harder. It recently published a major catalogue, Modern Women, accompanied by a feminist symposium at which the Guerrilla Girls appeared. Its photography department mounted an excellent exhibition, Pictures by Women, which charted the history of the medium through over 200 images.
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Given this, it's no wonder I'd like to run an art gallery and have as many women artists in it as men…maybe more.