The Gender Divide in the Art World

Purdy Eaton; An Old Man’s Reminisces. 2010. Oil and collage on canvas. 40×60″

I recently wrote an art review for Artist Portfolio Magazine’s blog about a show at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery entitled Women: By, Of, AboutIn the gallery’s press release it explains that the show is “[i]nspired by the current dialogue about women in the world, women in politics, the importance of women’s voices and women’s votes.” As I explain in my review, while the gallery’s roster still has more men on it than women, for over three decades, the gallery has been conscious of the gender divide in the art world, while others often ignore this. I briefly reviewed three of my favorite pieces from the show. Although the show is inspired by the current cultural and political environment surrounding women’s rights, it is not a show that is only about feminist art. You can read more here.

In the review, I cited two websites that discuss the gender divide in the art world, which, when you think about, is a rather ancient trend (quite literally). What’s sad is how little has changed in several hundreds of years despite the efforts of feminists and any milestones that have been made. For example, the National Museum of Women in the Arts states that while “51% of visual artists today are women, only 5% of art on display in U.S. museums is made by women.” This is something that, I assume, troubles most women artists and any others who are artists and don’t benefit from the centuries-old legacy and privilege  of being male and of European descent in the art world.  Try it: ask someone with little knowledge of art to name the artists they know and most likely they will name rockstars like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Rembrant. Even if you ask an artist, most would likely reference almost all male artists. There are some very cute cartoons going around the Internet, much like the one below, but I can’t always help but notice that women and people of color are often left out of this canon:

History of Art

I came across the article Women Artists Still Face Discrimination and posted it on Facebook. Discussion ensued, and while we expressed frustration at these sets of circumstances, we concluded that the best thing to do would be to hold a protest outside of Christie’s while impersonating Dee Snyder and chanting the lyrics to “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Well… not really, but for the record I am not opposed to that idea. We instead reaffirmed each other’s beliefs that while these realities are harsh and unfair, we must not wither like little flowers, but empower ourselves to make change and create opportunities for ourselves. This is why I value the mission of galleries like SOHO20 and A.I.R. 

Do you feel that, as an artist, you have been negatively impacted by the gender divide or due to any other marginalization within the art world?


About JRow

JRow is an L.A.-based artist who also creates and leads online community-based art projects. Websites:


  1. This is brilliant. Pithy – right on, yet aware of the task ahead. Changing patriarchal signifiers, well…So,, yes, I’ll join you at Christies. I’m a divinely twisted sister.

  2. Pingback: A Glass Ceiling for Women in the Arts? | Artist Stories

  3. I’m embarassed to say that I could only think of Cassat and Frankentheiler at first, then the names started pouring in: Chicago, Morrisot, Kahlo, O’Kheefe, Lange, Nevelson, Sherman, Ono, Bonilla Bourke-White, Arbus, etc Some of my favorite artists yet I as a feminist found myself struggling to recall their names. Thanks for the reminder that gender bias infects even feminists at times.

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