Why The Guerrilla Girls Believe In Championing Feminism & Gender Equality In The Art World

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You may have recently come across some shocking research which claims the top 62 billionaires in the world own the same wealth as half the world’s population. Oxfam, who released the findings, pointed out just how bad the economic inequality has become in the world, and how the wealthy 1% owning more than a vast majority of people on the planet is as insane as it is stupid. And it’s not about hating on the business people who build empires and create wealth for themselves, its the way certain economies are rigged to favor them, with tax loopholes for example, and leave the middle and lower classes to shoulder the burden, ensuring it is harder and harder for us to climb the ladder.

It is the type of message that has certainly gotten a lot of attention and many people fired up, thanks to democrat Bernie Sanders whose campaign is working to dismantle the “too big to fail” entities and establishments which seek to continue the status quo. And it is one of the biggest reasons he has raised millions of dollars and amassed an army of voters carrying his timely message in the streets, on social media, in schools, and wherever they can.

Income inequality has been recognized as a very gendered problem also, with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals announced in 2015 having a strong focus on empowering women economically in order to eliminate poverty by the year 2030.

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In fact you’d be hard pressed to find an industry that doesn’t discriminate or divide based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color and socio-economic background. Yes, that’s a big call. We’re all familiar with the glaring lack of females and minorities in government representation, in corporate boardrooms, in the STEM world and of course film. But what about the art world? Contrary to the mythical belief that arts and entertainment is some sort of beacon of liberalism and progressivism, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the art world specifically (as we extensively cover issues relating to gender inequality in film and TV) there is one particular activist group who are sounding the alarm about the lack of visibility of female artists in the world’s biggest galleries and exhibition halls, and how the system of art buying favors the wealthy. The New York-based Guerrilla Girls who have been around since the mid 1908’s, are bold and unapologetic in the way they bring attention to the glaring gender equality problem in the art industry, saying the lack of female artists represented at the highest level is a gross disservice to art appreciation and an artists ability to make money.

In a documentary titled ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’ by directors Chris Filippone and Chris Rogy, the women are filmed as they make their way around the big apple, handing out campaign stickers and enlightening art lovers to the truth of what happens in the art world. They project a message onto the side of art buildings for passers-by to see, which says “Dear art museum: so is constructing new buildings! We totally get why you can’t pay all your employees a living wage!” and “Dear art collector: Art is sooooo expensive, even for billionaires! We totally get why you can’t pay all your employees a living wage!”

We never see the women’s faces which is appropriate given they are using their voice to represent all the female artists whose face, names and work goes unknown by the masses.

“The super rich are controlling the museums on the boards. Power is being centralized into these few rich people, it’s really about the 1%. Unfortunately the art world now appears to be about money and the production of luxury items. Billionaires are making more and more, and their taste controls which artists get the big bucks, get the opportunities, get the shows,” say the Guerrilla Girls in the trailer above.

Their whole mission is to bother people, disrupt the status quo and infiltrate the system which favors only a few in the art world.

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Their clever slogans, catchy logos and thought-provoking stickers leave no room to wonder what it is they are trying to shed light on. But is it something that affects us all? Is gender discrimination in the art world really a big deal compared to, say, the attack on women’s reproductive rights, terrorism and other big issues?

We say yes. In a world where art and entertainment has a unique and powerful position to share messages and challenge the way we think, if all we see is artwork from a certain type of artist in the museums around the world, are we really getting the full picture?

In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert on his late night TV show, he asked the women, who were fully masked of course, why it is important to get more women into the museums and galleries around the world.

“Why choose art as a place for feminism? When I go to an art museum…I don’t necessarily know whether the person painting is a male or a female. Can art speak for itself or does it have to be gender identified?” asks Stephen.

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“Every aesthetic decision has a value behind it. And if all the decisions being made are by the same people, then the art will never look like the whole of our culture. And right now the art world is run by billionaire art collectors who buy art that appeals to their values. We say the art should look like the rest of our culture. Unless all the voices of our culture are in the history of art, then it’s not history of art, it’s a history of power,” responds one of the Guerrilla Girls.

It’s a pretty badass answer and it forces us to think deeper about the pervasive power of income inequality. Do we really have autonomy and the means to control our own choices if the very systems we operate within on a daily basis are being directed by the billionaires?

The reason we wanted to share this is because the message of Bernie Sanders, whether he gets elected or not, should be the very thing that revolutionizes our society. We need to be asking the questions and digging a little deeper to find out how we can take the power back in our hands.

We really love what the Guerrilla Girls have been doing and hope their message and mission continues to resonate with more and more people. Take a look at their interview with Stephen Colbert below:

3 Comments

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