The staggering lack of female artists in America's museums
Women are the muses of the art in our museums, but rarely the creators.
Why it matters: Female artists' work is a fraction of what's displayed in museums, but that's not due to a lack of women in art.
By the numbers: A recent analysis of major U.S. art museums by researchers at Williams College found that just 13% of artists featured in those collections were women. But some 55% of working artists are women, per data from the career platform Zippia.
The big picture: Kelema Moses, an art history expert and professor at the University of California, San Diego, points to a centuries-old pattern of women being left out of the art world.
- “Let’s think back to the renaissance,” she says. “Women were kept out of art schools and institutions, and therefore could not become artists with a capital ‘A’.”
Now, women make up the majority of art students and working artists, but they're still catching up to that long history of exclusion.
- And museum directors or those in charge of curating the art are majority male, Moses notes.
- “It’s sort of cliche to say that representation matters, but it really does. To see yourself, or at least a portion of your identity represented in museum spaces is critical because it can act as a vector for social change,” Moses says.
What to watch: Change is coming — albeit gradually.
Details: The Williams College analysis found that the overall split between male and female artists in America's museums is close to 87% and 13%, largely due to the overwhelming dominance of male artists from the 19th century and earlier.
- When considering just artists born in 1946 or later, the male-female split is closer to 74-26.