International Women's Day 2021

Posted by Kim Soep on

Artimesia Gentileschi 'Self Portrait' acquired by the National Gallery, London, in 2018

As a woman and particularly one working in art, I've found the growing focus on women artists at galleries and museums absolutely exhilarating. Women's voices that just a decade ago were local and marginalised are now mainstream and global. Notably, large institutions like Tate have been programming considerably more women solo shows. The last edition of the Venice Biennale finally achieved gender equality after 124 years with 53% women artists. The museum show Artimesia at the National Gallery, the first major exhibition in the UK of Baroque painter Artimesia Gentileschi- who continues to be woefully left out of much of the historical canon- is another significant step towards better representation of women in art. It suddenly feels like the campaign for gender parity in the art world is picking up pace.

There is still, however, lots of ground to make up. Tate director Maria Balshaw was recently quoted saying, "I don't strive for shows 50 percent by women because that's a feminist gesture, but because we want to refer to the world we live in." Currently, we live in a world where only 13.7% of living artists represented by galleries in Europe and North America are women. Moreover, works by female artists make up a minuscule share of major permanent collections, and at auction, artworks by women sell for 47.6% less than works by men. It's when you look at these statistics that you realise the need for campaigns such as International Women's Day and Women's History Month. After all, they not only prompt celebration of womanhood and the accomplishments of the women's rights movements so far, but remind us that we're just not there yet. 

Nevertheless, I can't help but feel excited by the sheer volume and variety of female artists in the spotlight right now. Prior to lockdown, I was in my element taking in as many shows as I could, including Helen Cammock at Kate McGarry, Laure Prouvost at Lisson and Tracy Emin at the Royal Academy- all of which were superb! And with lots more female solo shows confirmed for 2021, I cannot wait to get back out there! I'm not the only one either. There is clearly a growing appetite for women's voices in art, of which- through public demand- can only get louder. 

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