Where are the Women Artists? A Qualitative Look at On-view Collections Open Access
Downloadable ContentDownload PDF
In 2019, about fifty years after the Feminist art movement, women's art work in major museums is still minimal at best. For years groups like the Guerrilla Girls publicly protested and relied on quantitative data to call attention to the disparity that plagues most fine art spaces. Despite an opportunity for a more inclusive art scene for women in the 21st century - more than thirty years after the Guerrillas began their work, in the wake of another women's movement resurgence, and a time when diversity has become important in non-art institutions - data shows that museums have not followed cultural trends. While non-art institutions are compelled to consider their lasting exclusionary practices, the need for museums to consider the diversity of their own collections is much less clear. Instead these large institutions maintain collections true to their original purpose, a purpose upholding a canonical view of valuable art. Completed research includes data on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The five museums together have an average of 85.8% male artists in their permanent on view collections, pointing to an extreme gender gap. This research quantifies diversity in museums, using artwork by women to understand one area of diversity. Ongoing research includes continued data collection and analysis of two more museums, the Guggenheim Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Furthermore ongoing research focuses on qualitative data analysis of museum histories, their current financial support, and visual analysis of women's art work that has made it into collections. Art museums have several roles in society, most importantly a role to educate visitors about the art in their mission statement. Without representing artists of all genders and races in their collections, museums deny visitors more complete histories of artistic production. These findings allow for an opportunity to understand the relationship between fine art museums and artist representation.