The Art World’s Glass Ceiling | Does the Art Market Still Discriminate Against Women Artists?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about new auction records set for artwork by women artists.

The long and short of the article was that, even though, broadly speaking, work by female artists tends to be valued at less than similar work by their male counterparts, the gap is slowly beginning to close. In February, a portrait by Berthe Morisot’s set an all-time record for artwork by a female when it sold at $10.9M. The article goes on to point out that 9 of the top 10 records for artwork by women have sold in the last five years.

While this trend is encouraging when you consider how men have dominated the art market, women still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to auction values.

A quick survey of some of the prestigious artist groups around the country shows women making inroads, although there are still a number of notorious hold-out, all-male clubs (I’ll refrain from naming any here – I don’t care to open that can of worms).

I’m happy to report that in my market segment, the glass ceiling seems to be far more fragile, even if it hasn’t quite shattered. A glance around my gallery and you will find my display space equally divided between male and female artists. Looking at sales, the same is true.

I don’t perceive any blowback from collector’s when they discover that an attractive piece was created by a woman.

Gladly, I think the days of a woman having to sign her art with only a first initial to obscure her gender are behind us

I would expect that, over time, there will be a trickle-up effect. As women become a bigger part of the broader market, and as the value of their work catches up in the contemporary market, values will also increase for female artists who move into the high-end market and more and more women will become blue-chip artists.

Even so, I talk with many artists who feel there is still a bias in the market, and I wouldn’t want to downplay that perception. The art market has been slow to evolve, and because galleries are virtual fiefdoms, where the gallery owner can express his or her own biases without much fear of repercussion, it can still be difficult for a female artist to break through.

So what’s a woman to do?

Gladly, I think the days of a woman having to sign her art with only a first initial to obscure her gender are behind us, but there are still a few things a woman can do to overcome any residual bias. I speak here from both experience and from conversations I’ve had with women artists.

 

  1. Work harder. If there is still something for a woman to prove, it behooves you to do everything in your power to prove it. This advice actually applies to any artist, female or male. Sometimes an artist may sense discrimination when their work doesn’t find a ready audience among galleries or collectors when, in fact, the problem lies in the work itself. It’s hard work building a successful career as an artist, don’t assume that every failure is the result of discrimination.
  2. Leverage your strengths. I’ve written a number of posts over the years on the importance of communication and building relationships. I’m probably going to take some flak for saying this, but in my experience, communication and relationship building are not always strengths for men – in fact they often are not strengths. If these are strengths for you, take advantage of those strengths.
  3.  Be doggedly persistent. If doors seem to close in your face, keep knocking. While you can strive to create great work and do everything in your power to get it out there, there are some things you can’t change – your gender is one of them.

What do you think – does discrimination against women still exist in the art world? Have you experienced it? How have you overcome discrimination? What advice would you offer other artists who are concerned about how their gender might impact their success? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

83 Comments

  1. I think discrimination against women still exists to a very large extent. The large commercial galleries’ rosters show they represent mostly male artists. Seen at the large art Fairs these and other galleries from all over the world also exhibit works made largely by men. On the other hand, less prestigious galleries and exhibits, often curated by women, do
    show a more even proportion of women and men.

    1. Cecile, I find that to be so true. Jason’s post offers hope, but as he himself points out, women have a long way to go. I am in a small art market and have learned this lesson, On the good days, I ignore discrimination, and the “woman” factor, but this year, I am rethinking the struggle to become recognized. And women mentors, I have learned, offer more support.

  2. Jason, I surely hope you are correct! I was once told by a successful artist that if I wanted to be thought of as a “real” artist, I should not let anyone know I was a mother. I doubt many men have been given that advice.
    I didn’t listen.

  3. Yes, there is a bias in the art market. It is historical, and yes, we are closing the gap. I just said this to Pamela Wilson last week. Pamela is an incredibly FINE Artist. Her oil painting is stunning, moving and amazing. She is well behind her male counterparts in what she can command in price and notoriety.

    I think there are a few reasons for the situation. Most, in my opinion, are not intentional, but they exist, non the less. Women may not be considered as “serious” Fine Artists. They are perceived from a traditional standpoint of being “crafters.” Women in painting could not take on “avant guard” subject matter because it was “not their place” and because women were trained so they were intimidated from trying. (I’m generalizations here, there ARE exceptions.) Women’s content and topics of painting were not regarded highly in the man’s world where men “wore the pants” and made the income and bought the works. Yet, many women in history have been purchasers, commissioners and collectors of fine art. There is bias as women are still expected to have babies, be “teachers of art” for younger children, do crafts and mamby-pampy types of creative and artistic expression. The Red Hat Society of women, and groups for women that promote “social affiliations” as a priority instead of the art of doing business as women artists does not help. Women are not respected in society as their counterparts and it is not just men that don’t do the respecting! Art is hard market. For women in general to achieve what men have in the art world, there has to be an incredible amount of sacrifice and dedication and sometimes that very well shows up in their compromising their idea of what family should be. Not too many women want to give up pursuing their dreams of motherhood and family during their late twenties and thirties for long, unpredictable, lonely hours in the studio for years at a time until they are successful. In fact, without a “patron” for support, there were few woman in history that was successful. It was not something women could do by themselves. They have always needed a man to underwrite them financially or introduce them to the proper connections to be taken with regard. It is just the way it has been. Today things are different and they are changing. Women don’t have to ask for permission and women don’t have to behave in a “traditional” manner to be accepted. Women can choose to do whatever they want. And they can say whatever they want in paint without intimidation…..Things are slowly changing – yet still in the 21 century, women are not always given the place at the dinner table – where they ought to be seated! There is a really great book “Women, Art, and Society” by Whitney Chadwick that is the best testament to women in art history, and a great read!

    1. Thank you, Lori, for recommending Whitney Chadwick’s “Women, Art, and Society.” It is definitely on my reading list. And thank you for the discussion about how women have not had a seat at the art buffet, even in the 21st century.

  4. Oh, I think the discrimination is alive and well, often propagated by gallery owners, people who select the artists for shows and both men and women in charge of looking for artists for any number of reasons. It’s really prevalent when they are looking for “good sellers”, and there seems to be a authenticity issue also, as though if you are female you can’t be quite as good no matter what. Perhaps in some mediums there is more balance such as watercolor and mixed media and maybe pastelists. But in oil painting…it’s mostly men, that is the “power money”.

    1. Diane, as a women born in China, I have really hard time to get an appointment with owners or directors of galleries in New York City. While living in China, with two solo exhibition in China’s National Art museum (1997 & 1999), I was dimmed as one of 10 best Chinese artists and China’s National Art Treasure… Moving from Beijing to New York, becoming American citizen, I have found very hard to present my works.

      In America I have developed, can’t say, a new style, but interesting approach to PORTRAIT PAINTINGS & CITYSCAPE. All my collectors love my ABSTRACT REALISM, but, no gallery owner want even to spend 5 minutes with me and my paintings. Here is a link to ABSTRACT REALISM…
      http://www.seahawkartmuseum.com/abstractrealism.htm

      Thank you.

  5. It is still an uphill “battle” especially for older women artists and especially in NYC where I show. I had the most success with women gallery owner and directors. But even women directors can be brutal!!!

  6. Jason, I’ve seen women begin to get similar recognition in the art arena in the last 5 years. My friend, Nancy Guzik, the wife of Richard Schmid is quickly becoming known as a master, which she has been for most of her life, but now the public and collectors acknowledge her abilities as a fine artist by buying up her paintings as fast as she can paint them, and her prices are rising too.

    I’m sitting here wondering how much the internet has allowed woman to achieve a higher status in the art world and amoung collectors – after all, many of the gate-keeping galleries have closed, leaving male artists without the “agents” they depended on in the past. Conversely, women on the whole, tend to be social, less arrogant, yet at the same time, they are learning self-respect and presenting an aire of confidence. Because anyone can now self-promote using social media, a website, blog etc.. many new opportunties are open to both men and women equally to get their work “out there” and in front of a substantial number of people, who may have never seen their work otherwise.

    In a world where the gate-keepers have less power over whose work gets seen online, in art competitions, and in blogs, magazine articles, all artists (male and female) have the ability to reach and cultivate their own fan base. I know things have changed for me that way. I did the gallery route, but got tired of having dealers tell me what subjects to paint, and where else I could sell my work. It was too restrictive, and I felt like I would break their laws, so I pulled out and began selling on my own.

    Things are changing fast, and while many men who used to sell in galleries and are now finding themselves unable to market their own work, woman are stepping in and ruling their own careers. It’s so freeing to know that they don’t need a group of men to condone their work in order to build a following. The Internet is a great equalizer.

  7. I took a Navajo weaving class from a woman who told us the story of how she became a recognized and world renown weaver. She went from door to door in Scottsdale (not at Xanadu as this was years ago and not in your “genre”), begging for someone to place one of her weavings. Finally, one gallery gave her a chance, and that was the beginning. I guess the moral of that story is that we as women need to be more persistent. Right now I have some pieces as a women-run gallery that I used to show at when I did ceramics in lieu of the fiber I do now. My stumbling block is that the fiber work I am doing, although winning awards in juried shows, is not “hot” art like is was in the 70s. Mind you, this is not craft. I am careful to do art. I have not tried to ask a gallery to show my work yet. I did go up to Xanadu at a time when Jason was out of town. He said before that he would critique an artist’s work, so I was disappointed. Travel is involved. It is also not his genre. And in the last few sentences you can probably see why some women do not succeed. I was not persistent like Barbara Teller Ornelas. I didn’t go back again. I made excuses. I limited my area of pounding on doors. What do you other women think of my puny efforts?

  8. Great article. I think the gap is largely created by women themselves. If you believe someone that tells you that you must keep your parental status a secret, then that is YOUR OWN doing. Red Hat Society is not the undoing of your marketing strategy. If a gallery is looking for a “good seller,” that can hardly be looked upon as discrimination. Just become a good seller! When my kids were little, my husband and I both CHOSE to make them a priority with no regrets. Both of us now spend ZERO time lamenting the fact that our dreams temporarily lost momentum while we were working on an even bigger passion. One could argue that it was expected of me and not him. So what? Do you only do what is expected of you? Jason, you gave three things women could do to close the gap. I think female OR male artists that adopt these three ideas will help themselves better than if they keep making excuses. Just MY opinion.

    1. My High School friend Sue Ellen Cooper (nee Sue Humphrey) started the Red Hat Society as a lark and it just blew up and now it’s world Wide — It’s get togethers for older women. Funny thing, Sue is a good artist herself and is planning more time for art.

    2. Great answer, Linda. This issue that you are either an artist or a parent is ridiculous. We are not one-dimensional and multi-tasking challenged. There are several young artists who are really rising in the art world while raising their families, some of them as single parents. Equally ridiculous is the notion that someone under 30 is the only artist that will have new and interesting ideas. Those with miles on their feet may actually have greater sensitivity to the nuances of life that make great art. Last, I will say that there is still prejudice against older women. When I returned to college to seek an art education, I did experience a lot of it. Several professors made it clear that the twenty-something male would get most of their attention and were considered as the best prospects to put their school and them on the map. I was there to fill a demographic. That was clear at both schools I attended –and these were liberal California universities, no less. Age has its beauty, though. You have experience and know how to make demands eye to eye. Never take the back seat because some fool thinks that is your place. Stand and deliver!

    3. Some women create the gap, some don’t. I follow a tech list, and there was an article written by a “Kim,” whose resume mentioned time with family (to show how supportive), several hobbies (to show had a life and not over-focused). No interviews, no interviews. Finally added a “Mr.” to resume, and got a job right away. The same attributes that were desirable in a male candidate were judged to be undesirable in a female (having a family = asking off all the time to tend sick kid, having hobbies = scatterbrained).

  9. Certainly it exists! And as long as people (read: gallery owners, potential and current clients, peers, oneself) hold to stereotypes, discrimination will exist. I’m a artist, a woman, working primarily in fabric. Yes, I make quilts, art quilts, bed quilts, lap quilts. You want to talk discrimination? Talk to an artist whose preferred medium is fabric/fiber/textiles. The three points you’ve mentioned (work, strengths, persistence) are central to moving through discrimination. A thick skin and a good sense of self are also important. I’m fortunate to live in a city that has a few galleries and organizations that are open and encouraging for artists who work in fiber. They’re out there, people, don’t get discouraged, keep on truckin’.

  10. I don’t believe that auction markets are a gauge of any art made by men or women. Perhaps the Gagosians of the world have an impact since they tend to promote artists for mostly money-making reasons.

    I do know that women appear to be generously represented in most local studio and art galleries. In fact, when you look at the typical Gallery or art center, it’s mostly women, by women, and for women. The ideal would be a balance of men and women artists in galleries and art venues.

    I actually don’t care who created a particular art piece, but I do respond to art that is engaging and well done.

  11. I was just having this conversation yesterday with another female artist friend! I just wanted to echo what is written above by Diane and Lori. We have a very vibrant artist community where I live, with many many talented hard working artists of both genders, but even in my enlightened community, the male artists are genrerally more sought after, command higher prices, and often have “harems” of adoring fans. These guys are also extremely talented, so no sour grapes here, just observations. I hope that times are beginning to change as Jason’s article suggests! Thanks to Jason for all his help and advice to artists and for bringing this subject up.

  12. When I was eighteen years old, fresh out of high school I spent that summer at the school of Robert Brackman in Noank, Connecticut. He was a very well known artist and teacher who had classes at the Art Students’ League in New York in the winter. It was 1959 and I was on the cusp of the women’s lib movement. It was either that first summer or the second that Mr. Brackman said to the class that was gathered in front of my painting, which I thought was a very feeble attempt, “she paints like a man” and everyone in the class clapped. I was stunned, as I didn’t know how to take it…a compliment, or a put down. I didn’t know. I had been brought up in a home and school that followed the Quaker beliefs and gender differences were not taught to me. I had no idea there was a problem with my gender. I had been treated as the newbie in the group and many of the old ladies, and men too, took me under their wings and helped me learn how to paint. After that comment I was treated differently, as if I was now one of them, a painter, and not a pet, or a cute little girl in with a bunch of older men and women who knew the ropes. People referred back to that comment for years, as I was associated with Brackman and his classes for quite a few years after that, and people remembered him saying that. Looking back on it I would guess that none of them would have remembered the painting I was doing at the time he said that (I do, and it has since hit the trash can).
    Years later I submitted my work to a gallery who expressed interest in exhibiting my work. It was far distant from where I lived and I was using the internet which was, at that time, a fragment of what it is today, but this gallery owner saw my work online and requested that I have a show in his gallery. He addressed a letter to me as Mr. Gainor Roberts, which has happened to me all my life, and when I corrected him he blatantly said he didn’t want women in his gallery, so I was immediately shut out, even though initially he liked my work. Go figure.
    I agree that there are many more opportunities for women in the arts today. Thankfully the line is growing dimmer, but I suspect it is still there, but growing dimmer all the time. I have joked to many of my friends over the years that I needed a wife! And we all laugh, knowing that so many of the artists, that are household words today, were supported by loving wives who often had to put their own artistic talents aside to create these men into fame and fortune. And some of them were equal artistically to their husbands, but lost in the mists of the art black hole.

  13. Coming from an artist who has been “seriously” pursuing a career in painting for a relatively short time, you can take this with a grain of salt if you wish. My belief is that you make of your life, your career, and your world exactly what you intend and persevere toward. The only barriers to a woman’s success are the one’s she believes exist.

  14. Dorothy, how about if we add: white, over 60 years old, to female and mother. Being an artist who has years on her side, can be a detriment to being seen as serious. I often am told that it is “wonderful that you have such a great hobby”. It is most often from someone who does not appreciate the arts.

    1. Mary,

      As a man who came to be an artist late in life – 71 – I get the same comment from “friends” and others. The comments still come even though I sell thousands of dollars worth of paintings each year and am represented in numerous galleries.

      1. To you both and others among us, I get this “hobby” thing a lot, too. Including from other artists! I do acrylic abstract paintings, have had shows and sold my work. But I, too, am older and feel it’s belittling for others including younger artists to call my work a hobby. When i hear this, I think to myself, you can’t change your age and you should pray that your art does not one day become a “hobby.” If I wanted a hobby, it would not be my painting.

  15. Many of you may not like this, but this is the ridiculous topic to drudge up over and over and over again. Yes, there was tremendous bias. Yes, that bias will continue to exist in the auction market for years to come.

    BUT, one ex. Joan Mitchell & her partner Jean-Paul Riopelle. Riopelle was the darling of the art-world – Anything & everything sold at exorbitant prices & Joan lived in his shadow. BUT what has the art market done? Riopelle – is virtually unheard of and his work does not even reach the second tier of auction results (except for his home country of Canada). Joan has outperformed b/c she is the better artist. Do her prices meet DeKooning’s, Pollock’s, etc. Not yet. But, the difference here has NOTHING to do with the artist’s gender. It has to due with “investment.” Who guarantees a better return?

    Women artists today must do what male artist’s do to be successful. I don’t think one iota about gender per se. The only way that gender comes in – is the same way that Santa Fe comes in to play. I was considering showing a very good sculptor from Santa Fe. I told him – you have to stop using turquoise and adobe to reach beyond a regional market and present a universal message. Likewise, women and men artists, in my opinion, need to avoid feminizing or masculating their artwork. This may have its place somewhere, but the message should be universal – for everyone to understand and feel. If there is a bias, it exists because some women create “feminine” art rather than neutral art.

    Finally – Women’s art shows – If you want to call yourself a second-class citizen – do so, but then don’t complain if someone else does. You should be an artist – not a woman artist, gay artist etc. Did Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol and others march around saying “I’m a gay artist.” NO. If they would have stressed this, they would not have achieved what they did.

    UNIVERSAL ART FOR A UNIVERSAL AUDIENCE! The best women artist do this.

    It is hard enough being an artist who sells – male or female! But using gender as a crutch – I am not selling b/c of discrimination is probably masking an objective analysis of the work itself.

    In operating a gallery for 7+ years, displaying artists of both genders, I have NEVER once had a discussion with a collector about gender – NEVER! The only time this comes up is in these types of articles and women’s artist discussions.

    1. No of course Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol didn’t march around saying, I am a gay artist as they were in the closet and if they did no one would have shown them.

  16. Jason, what an interesting topic. I am not so sure the glass ceiling for women artists is even fragile but I do believe it is misting over so women artists know where it is and can navigate around it. What I mean by this is the second strength you mention about how women artists are likely to have communication skills. I believe the use of social media has created a deal breaker for women artists.

    Example: Since the middle of January 2013 I have sold nine middle-sized paintings valuing over $6,000 in revenue. Not a huge amount by any means but not so bad for an emerging artist in her third year of working full-time as a painter and photographer. I wouldn’t want to pay the bills on this revenue yet but we are getting closer. These sales were accomplished without gallery representation and without a special show or event. The paintings were shared online through G+, Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly my work-in-progress blog and website. I do have a local venue in a restaurant where 17 new works are showing but this is NOT where the sales are coming from. We only have 1,000 people living on our island. I have a great online gallery I use to show my work and make it easy to purchase directly or make an offer directly to me. I pay a small monthly fee to show my work here and they work like a brokerage. This is a particularly useful service for international sales. What is happening is that my paintings are now selling when they are still in the work-in-progress stage – even before it is released. The recorded is 2:28 minutes after I posted the days work. But several have been within 24 hours and a week from the time I painted them. The buyer is finding these works through posts on my social media pages. The buyer is buying the paintings NOT in a gallery, not even on my own website or work-in-progress blog – they are sold before I even get a chance to post them there.

    What does this have to with being a woman artist you might say? Well, it is mostly women I connect with on these social networks and it is women who then share my work with others and it is often women who give the final nod to a large family purchase – be it a car or house or a major art purchase. I have the advantage of building trust and respect directly with the person who has the major influence in an art purchase decision.

    Do men buy my art directly? Yes. The most significant sale I have made to date was to a male historic Canadian art collector who set my painting down directly in front of his original Emily Carr oil painting. However, from our email communication I know that this was a joint decision between him and his wife. He was also predisposed to an interest in Canadian women artists as he had a large collection of historic paintings by Canadian women artists.

    Can men and, more importantly galleries use this same strategy? I believe they can and some are starting to do so. Jason, you are a fine example of doing at least some of this with your email list communication. But my experience tells me that in general galleries are lagging behind in this area just as they are in possibly not addressing gender balance in their stable of artists.

    Do I still need and want gallery representation? Yes I do, in particular for the large paintings over 30 inches on one side. I have criteria for a gallery and one of these is that the gallery have a strong online presences with good close viewing of work online with the ability to purchase immediately. I expect the gallery to actively develop their online social network in some fashion. So far, I haven’t found a gallery that I feel can do a better job than I am of selling my work. Therefore I am happy to keep the 50% marketing and sales percentage from my direct sales to art collectors 🙂

    Until galleries catch up with the desires of art collectors for immediate access to diverse artists, as a woman artist, I am going to continue to expand my own direct relationships with art collectors through my blog and other social networks – because I can and it works for both me and art buyers.

    Thank you Jason for providing a stimulating forum for this discussion. All the best of today to you!

    1. Hi Terrill,
      Thanks for this detailed information/suggestion you provided. And I agree with most of them.
      Can you please provide the name of the online gallery you’re working with!
      The one with a small monthly fee and acting as a brokerage company.
      I receive many requests but don’t fully trust their contribution.
      Thank you!

  17. Great article Jason, thank you!

    I was just having this conversation with my husband the other day. Roughly ten years ago a good friend of mine, who is a painter, told me that she only signs her first initial and last name to her paintings. She suggested that I do the same with my fine art photography, but I didn’t want to cover up any part of who I am.

    While I agree, there certainly has been and may still be gender discrimination in the art world, I tend to agree with something important that lindabillet said. If we believe that discrimination exists, then that discrimination perpetuates itself. As a female photographer, I do notice that most of the big workshops are conducted by men. Most of the highest priced sales go to men. However, I don’t allow myself to think in terms of excuses for not having as high a sale as, lets say Peter Lik.

    Instead, I get excited about the success of others – male or female (and excited about the successes that I’ve had to date). Their success lets me know that art is selling and secondly, it keeps me focused on what is possible. I think that Jason’s three points of working harder, leveraging strengths and being persistant are spot on for all artists. Its best to maintain positive focus on why we can and why we will be successful versus a self defeating attitude of why we can’t or why we won’t. This positive focus is where all through history we’ve seen people overcome what others said was impossible.
    We overcome what we don’t “own” merely because it doesn’t exist in our minds.

  18. I think part of the reason is because women typically start their art career later in life, after kids or after their career. Most well established artists (male or female) get their art career started early in life. I am an artist that is starting to sell my art at art festivals and a big majority of the artists that participate are retired and female. If you look at the high end galleries in places like New York, it is mostly work of young artists. So unfortunately I think age has a big part in discrimination as well.

  19. Vilis I DO like that you feel this is a ridiculous topic and that as a gallery operator you have “NEVER once had a discussion with a collector about gender – NEVER! ” This is heart-warming and hopeful in regards to a fragile glass ceiling perceived for women artists. I am intrigued by your comments about investment and who guarantees a better return because I think there is and has always been a window for investors who seek out under-represented emerging artists of today. Because of the gallery-lag mentioned in this post of representing a gender balance in some galleries, this is an opportunity not just women artists but all artists to connect with buyers who are willing to reach past traditional gallery/collector relationships. And, more importantly we have the tools to do so.

    However, if I may, I question your proposal of “UNIVERSAL ART FOR A UNIVERSAL AUDIENCE!”

    Rather, I believe the strongest art is not universal at all. It is specific. It is the best work that an artist can authentically produce. For example, my landscapes are definitely specific to my south west coast of Canada experience. However, the art collectors are primarily in the United States with a few in Australia and Europe. Though my Canadian collectors are growing this more regional market has been slower to develop. So, for all their regional specitivity, my paintings have found an international audience even though I live in rural Canada on a small island of about 1,00o people. But I would question whether this makes the work “universal art for a universal audience.” I have instead painted to my strength, going as deep and authentically as I can muster in each work, with a conscious sense of be-damned with the current art market and a second be-damned with what is selling or not selling. In fact, my ten year goal is to create the strongest body of work I possibly can – even though my paintings do sell, I am not even focused on selling it at this time.

    With this experience, I then would discourage creating “universal art for a universal audience” that is IF I have understood you correctly Vilis in you proposal. Or possibly my work has more of a universal appeal, even though the subjects are most often regionally specific, than I recognize? Possibly. Still, I am willing to counter that artists, regardless of gender, should go for authentic skill mastery and focus on strengthening these abilities and let the universality of the work take care of itself.

    Thank you for your stimulating proposition Vilis 🙂

  20. Many more males than females are sucessful because they have a WIFE who helps in the business. Or because the public takes them more seriously.

  21. Thanks for this article — I appreciate both its positive tone and its honesty that there are still parts of the art world where the gender gap remains significant. And your suggestions for women artists are good suggestions for ANY artist trying to break into a difficult community or market.

    That said, I’d be very interested in seeing a parallel list of suggestions for how gallery and museum professionals can make sure that their venues and exhibits feature more equal percentages of male and female artists. It sounds like you’ve been successful in addressing the gender gap in your own space. What have you done differently from other galleries to make that happen?

  22. Just a quick response Terrill – I oversimplified. For ex. – when I say “universal art art for a universal message” it sounds like I promote minimalism, abstract expressionism – movements without a direct & narrow message. This is not true. I understand the need for feminist art, the AIDS crisis related art, etc. In my opinion, although the best of the artists working in these areas have a specific agenda – that agenda fits within a “universal” theme of oppression, discrimination, death, etc. So, any topic can rise to the level of what I refer to as “universal.” I think that we generally agree that universality takes care of itself.

    The main aspect of this point is exemplified by my ex. of the Santa Fe artist. There is nothing wrong with being a SF artist, but if you put yourself in this box (and use turquoise and adobe colors), then don’t complain that people outside of Santa Fe diss the work.

    There have been some recent exhibits that raise interesting issues that relate to this. Best ex. might be the Jay Defoe exhibit (female) that travelled to several major museums. The Rose – her most monumental piece is a masterpiece that deserves a place in the highest circles of art. Most of the rest was derivative of what was already happening and “styleized.” (sp???) It was also. Critics raved. I thought undeservedly so & honestly – in this case, I believe that there was a conscious effort to “lift” the artist beyond her place b/c 1) she had a single painting that was exceptional & 2) the effort to raise consciousness of women artists.

    Re investment – Investment can take so many different forms. I will, however, refer back to an Art in America issue in 1960. Curators from MOMA, experts in all fields were naming the best sculptors, painters, etc. The “experts” so missed the mark. No hint of pop, minimalism, etc. When I evaluated the auction records re all of the named artists – about 100, fewer than 10 had sold at auction within the past 10 years. SO, I do not personally believe in “investment art.” But my advice remains consistent – if you want your art to hold value (& be ready for a “off the lot markdown” b/c the gallery has to make some $) then stick with big names. Never guaranteed. Otherwise, you have to know who are the “blessed” curators and the coterie that they are promoting.

    Every artist needs to go out there and be true to themselves. That is the most important. If one starts to evaluate by sales, then this is a new and arbitrary factor that enters into the analysis.

    I own Joan Mitchell, Nan Goldin, Dorthea Lange, Roni Horn, etc. I own them b/c they are good – b/c I relate to them.

    Joan is as good as Brice. Nan is better than Jack or Phillip. Nan’s auction prices are relatively low – why b/c every photograph came out in 2 sizes in edition of 15 & 25 plus more. Her prices aren’t low at auction b/c she is a woman. They are low b/c she flooded the market with too many images. But, she will go down as one of the most important photographers of the late 20th century. There are simply too many factors to say, women don’t achieve prices men do.

    Excuse the rambling. Too many factors & to simplify by gender today is simply an excuse. It is an oversimplification! (Again – yes historically discrimination existed – I simply do not see it today.)

  23. I sculpt, in wood and stone, with mallet and chisels, and some filing. My work is time consuming, and I love it. I am working to build up a body
    of work that I can show. I also make prints, and that is what I have sold. I’ve only had one show, but it was so much fun. I told everybody I knew
    about it, and made a point of being there to see them, if I could. I did tell stories about my work, about my process, and the changes I/it went
    through. I hope to show again in the near future. I am a single mother ( they’re in their 20s now), a retired teacher, and have 5 years of creating
    artwork since my 20 year teaching and mothering break. My work is personal, yet universal, and very feminine with lots of curves, rhythm, and flow.
    That is part of my strength, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I often sculpt in public, in a botanical garden, so I am not hidden away and alone,
    feels good. My work is carry-able, so it’s not huge scale sculpture. That may be a stumbling block at some point, I don’t know. I think there is a
    strength in my work that will just have to push that size bias out of the way. One could look at the size thing as a male/ female issue, I’m not gonna
    worry about that … yet … or ever. I’ve never sold a sculpture, and don’t really want to yet, the building up a body of work to show would really go
    at odds with that. Nobody has offered so far, and, for now, I am comfortable with that. The blog about work-in-progress that Terrill Welch spoke
    of sounds very interesting to me. I don’t know how to set that up, or if I trust myself to keep it going and vital, … yet.

  24. Thank you for taking the time to expand on your original comment Vilis. An excellent and thorough reply. Most helpful. All the best of today to you!

    Jeannie I started with Jason Horejs’ book “Starving to Successful: The Fine Artist’s Guide to Getting Into Galleries and Selling More Art.” Even though I am not represented by a traditional gallery yet, this book has been a most useful resource in learning how to represent my own work. It is also how I became part of Jason’s distribution liss for blog posts like this one today 🙂 In addition, Jason sometimes hosts a conversation with art marketing expert – Barney Davey. He can tell you all about setting up an art blog and what frequency and kinds of content to post. Both of these resources are helpful in getting started and putting some long-term goals in place.

    As for a work-in-progress blog, start with where you are already connected online. If that is facebook, share public work-in-progress there. If it is twitter or Google Plus then start there. Keep it casual, personal, short and inviting. Then if you find this works for you consider a more formal blogging account such as wordpress or blogspot. Most of all Jeannie, only do what you enjoy doing. If it becomes a chore, stop and try something else. Best of luck!

  25. I appreciate all of the very thoughtful and well-articulated comments. I appreciate hearing your feedback and perspective. As a gallery owner, I live a bit in my own little world, and it’s helpful to know that this is still a huge challenge that we all need to overcome. I too look forward to the day when this is not longer an issue and no longer a topic of conversation.

    I guess the big question is, what can we each do to help chip away at the glass ceiling?

  26. Thanks Terrill! That definitely gives me some food for thought. I already do go to their free webinars. They are good, they make sense. God knows
    how I got on their mailing list, but I’m glad I did. Thank you too, Jason.

  27. im a metal artist running my own gallery featuring my own work in small bisbee az. and i dont seem to have a problem
    but i am VIXEN Metal

  28. This subject has not crossed my mind, nor has gender been an issue in any of the galleries or shows I have been involved in, for several years. How refreshing! However, Cecile (the first commenter) is right, that at the “higher” levels the discrepancy is very obvious. I believe that is because men have not relinquished ownership of the bigger-money parts of the art world, whereas at the more regional level, art organizing has mostly been taken over by women. As far as I can tell, in the regional art scenes of most parts of the U.S. men are so outnumbered by women that it makes me wonder where they have all gone.

  29. most successful artists are teams…one selling and one creating ….re..the french imp….many artist are not recognized in their life time….and in the past money flowed to the sons …often in the form of allowances…not the daughters….it will be interesting to see what the future holds for women artists…..and it will be interesting to see what will happen to art collecting….when we have a up and coming generation who neither collects books , art, or furniture, or antiques or stamps or anything that i think of as traditional storehouses of value…..denis rogers

  30. Women artists already do work harder at their art. Women everywhere work harder at doing an excellent job, many times a stellar job. And then they wait to be ‘discovered’, while men reach out and grab chances, ask for opportunities and get them.

    Hm, maybe women should reach out, grab, ask, too?

  31. Unfortunately, Jason, discrimination against women artists is alive and well. Of the current 24 OPA Living Masters listed on the email I received today regarding the upcoming OPA exhibition, only three are women. In the very long history of the American Watercolor Society (AWS) the top prize – the GOLD MEDAL – has only been won by women a hand full of times. I conduct feminist museum tours and only 2 percent of the art on display is work by women artists. I have also noticed that many top galleries if they represent women at all it hardly ever more than 30% of the total. I took Art History at U.C. Berkeley in the early 1980’s. The main textbook “History of Art” was by a man named Janson. Total number of women artists in his textbook? (Remember – this is liberal Cal Berkeley we are talking about?) ZERO! (Now they have women editors for the textbook and do include a very few women artists.) The steps that we all need to take here is to educate people about the work of women artists. Make sure work by women is included in textbooks at all educational levels. Expose collectors to work by women artists. Offer tours and workshops which include the work of women artists. And women artists themselves need to toot their own horn! I took a survey last year – kept records from my colleagues (like you, Jason!) and from the many artists on my mailing list (I am an art rep and provide one on one consulting for artists). Of the hundreds of emails I received from this list, I divided it into 2 groups – one by men and one by women. The women, on average, only sent me emails two times per month, and the men sent them twice per week ! I asked several woman artists why they thought the men were doing this and why the women were so shy about promoting themselves? They said that it was because they didn’t want to “bother” people. Well, this is your livelihood ladies! Now is the time to promote yourself and your work! – Margaret Danielak, DanielakArt

    1. You struck a big nerve in me, and the approach to “bothering” patrons, Margaret. All my life I’ve been the “goody two shoes” in life and art, but that seems to be dissolving as I grow older. I don’t want to be known as a “woman artist.” And I have sold quite well in the past five years, as Terrill says, not enough to keep a roof over my head, but enough to keep me going. I am definitely ready to leap off the bench and promote.

  32. This is probably the most incredible proof of that glass ceiling that I have ever run across. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/whats-the-biggest-problem-with-women-artists-none-of-them-can-actually-paint-says-georg-baselitz-8484019.html

    It is an article in the Independent in the UK about Georg Baselitz who says “The problem with women painters is that NONE of them can paint.” Full stop…. I have nothing else that so clearly demonstrates the discrimination women face as artists.

    Important read, although I am not sure the link will work in a comment.

    1. Wow Bernadine – Baselitz’s commentary is staggering in its ignorance. Thanks for the link – I think statements like this will actually have a positive effect on the market for women. Such blatantly sexist rhetoric is self-defeating.

    2. Link worked, although it was infuriating to read. The nonsense continues… this topic has generated a lot of feedback! Clearly we’re all still feeling the glass… I just attended a prestigious art fair in an urban setting near me, and I was told a story about an artist who wasn’t accepted (I was waitlisted, and didn’t make it in, such is life) who then proceeded to go on a rant on social media about not being accepted, and then privately commented that the show was 80% housewives, and that all the artists that really need to get into the show because ‘they make their living creating art’ didn’t get in. This is from a white, gay male artist. I’m hoping he was just having a bad day, but geez. By the way, I thought the show was great, and the quality of the artwork was outstanding. Housewives can really paint/sculpt/draw!

  33. I didn’t get past the phrase “equivalent work”. As applied to art work it is pretty much meaningless. One might note that the “Venus of Willendorf” considered priceless and the gender of the creator is unknown.

  34. If women can be highly successful in other creative areas, such as film, music, and writing, surely they can be successful in visual art. Instead of asking why women are less successful in visual arts, would it not be better to search out the most successful women in this area, and talk to them? See what they’re doing? Find out what makes them tick?

  35. Jason – I’ve enjoyed researching this subject over the years – from scholarly research to biased opinions – and discovered that people need to measure or explain ideas about “women artists” in terms of their differences – male and female personalities, approaches, techniques, stages of life. This does not always translate into discrimination – although discrimination still exists. For myself – my age or gender is not what I want others to see when they view my art. My interest is the on-going search for ideas to communicate, and to make each canvas push my skill as a visual communicator. My work sells and it doesn’t sell, I get accepted into shows and rejected – this is the background music to my priority of creating work that – as Lee Krasner said, creates a canvas that can “breathe and be alive.” My success – and failure – remind me of my strengths and weaknesses and guide me toward my next effort.

    I believe most artists are after the same goals. But we go into this “work” knowing there are no guarantees we will find our market, succeed because we are better, or find profit because of who we are or who supports our efforts. If it becomes a question of painting at a higher skill level, marketing yourself better, finding support systems, all the information others have shared here, the best thing women artists can do to chip away at the glass ceiling is to stop listing all the excuses why they can’t or how they were prevented from succeeding, and step up now to participate fully in what they want to create.

  36. I think we all want the same thing, to be as good at our art as we can. I have not given that much thought to being discriminated against cause a woman. I began in graphic design work at a time when fewer women did and never stopped me from pursuing what I wanted . The only part not as good was the concern of not getting paid the same as the other gender!! (could be true as an artist/painter, but then the artist sets a price, so go for it) Now that I am reaching the Grandma Moses age I sometimes wonder if age discrimination is more of a concern that if female or male.

  37. In my opinion, in today’s world, if a woman doesn’t attain the success she desires, then she needs to look in the mirror. Women are their own worst enemies if they point to “discrimination” as the reason they aren’t as successful as they want to be. As soon as any female artist identifies herself as a “woman artist” instead of an “artist”, I immediately view her as someone who is making a mistake before she even steps out the door. Does ANY male artist identify himself as a “man artist”? Men may have been the default artists in centuries past, but that’s not the case in our time. So, women, look to your own efforts as the means to success. You define it, you work to achieve it, and don’t blame others if it doesn’t come true. No entrepreneur ever became successful by blaming others for “discriminating” against them.

  38. I sure did experience discrimination in graduate school when one of the professors stated to my face that he did not believe “older women could be creative”. I was 33 years old at the time and juggling full time school with a home, husband, and two small children. Not quite as easy as the girls fresh out of college who were still living at home where Mom did the cooking, cleaning, shopping,and all other household chores. But I truly was trying hard, had A’s from this same professor the year before when I was still an undergraduate. Furthermore, this man, who was about my same age saw to it that several of the other professors would look unfavorably upon my work, though one had already given me an A for my thesis which I had completed after a trip to NY city – I lived in WI at this time – to interview some of the artists I was writing about and to see their work first-hand in the galleries. All this was before the ” Women’s Movement”, “Women’s Liberation”, etc. I did challenge my C+ grade from this guy by going to the head of the Art Department, and also to the Dean of Women at the University, but neither was willing to help me and stated they had to leave the grading up to the professors. Well, this was a low blow and it took about 3 years to recover my self-confidence, but I did, continued to paint in many media, taught myself watercolors, acrylics, and pastel painting techniques and did a lot of works in all those media. ( I had been a commercial artist in NY city and surrounding area for 5 years before I returned to school to get my teaching certificate and then try for a Masters in Art. ) I began showing my work at art fairs and sold many paintings to individuals, collectors and even to several corporations. Also my work was accepted into many local galleries. I also entered a lot of competitions and won quite a few awards, some Best in Show and First Prizes among them. Today I am in a co-op gallery where we have over 100 artists in all media exhibiting, and have sold over $40,000 worth of art this Season in our new and better location. One of my paintings was the first one sold from the gallery at this location just as we were getting the works ready to open the gallery. So I felt good about that. I still am entering competitive shows also. Most of the artists in the shows and in our co-op gallery are women, I believe, although we do not discriminate and have some wonderful men artists. I have found that the men have much better support from their spouses than do the women artists. And I do think this helps a tremendous amount in getting one’s work out to the public and publicizing oneself. Their is only so much time in the day. I too would like to have a promoter. My husband is retired now, but has no knowledge or interest in promoting my art, and has so many health problems, I am mostly his caregiver now as well.

  39. Prejudice is ugly. Prejudices based on age, gender, religion, race and even artistic medium! They are real in the art world. I know, because I have experienced each in my art career. Yes they are hurtful and can be very discouraging, but I believe the only true victory it can claim is if I let it shut my passion down. It won’t. It can’t. I refuse to let them dampen my striving for expertise as an artist – to me, that is success. I would like to believe that women will one day hold equal status with men artists, but I won’t hold my breath waiting. I will instead, keep pushing forward in an imperfect world and, who knows, it might indirectly effect the outcome somehow. I choose to sit in the front of the bus and make a statement! Thanks Rosa Parks and Rosa Bonheur.

  40. Every time a door closes, the windows and the roof open wide, admitting sunlight and fresh air. The best advice I can give to anyone, man or woman, is to keep working. And never give up knocking on doors, entering art contests, showing up. This summer my husband and I went to Albuquerque, N.M., because he had a business meeting. We landed at the resort, left cell phones, iPad, and laptop in the room, and went to the bar for a glass of wine after driving more than 10 hours. My husband sat next to a man who said he was an art collector. Within 15 minutes after handing him my business card, following an introduction by my husband, I sold the painting on the card. “That’s what is wrong,” I later told my husband. “I’m not spending enough time in bars!” Of course, that’s a joke, because I spend each and every day creating art.

    1. Oh, that is so funny, Mary-“I’m not spending enough time in bars!”! I hope you got his card. 🙂

      Jason, you are a wonderful resource and well of knowledge, and I always enjoy your newsletters/writing about art and art marketing. I’ve just recently begun posting photos of my art on my Facebook page, and I am very happy at the responses of people to them all. Right now, I’m signing the paintings B.D. James, as I found that there is another Dianne James out there who is doing art. I’m working on my website, now, which has both paintings and photographs. I have so many paintings still in my head, lol. Upon reading these messages from artists, it looks like it might be an uphill battle, being female, but I have never let that stop me. I’ve always bulldozed the doubt, and in my broadcasting career (radio and television) and newspaper reporter/Editor jobs I learned that whatever my hands found to do, I would do it with all my might. Same with the art. Regarding gender bias, I just pray that I will find the galleries and opportunities that are best for me and my paintings. I’m so sorry for those female artists who have missed opportunities just because of their gender, and I can relate to the being a parent/wife/etc. I have no regrets that I spent a great part of my life bringing up two children, and juggling careers. It was hard, but there’s victory in knowing that I could do it. By the way, I really enjoyed your book, Jason. Very encouraging! I see, after reading the book, where you get your resilience. Resilience is a valuable commodity for anyone, especially artists. Thank you all for your insight.

  41. You might want to look at a painting I finished when I graduated from college more than 20 years ago: http://joycewynes.com/works/1176145/women-in-art-where-are-they that addressed the issue that women were not represented in the art world, not in the history books or in galleries. It took 1st place in a 12 county juried exhibition at the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn, NY. The painting still applies to women today in the fine art world. We’ve made some advances but we are still discriminated against in coverage and prices for our art. Throughout history women used quilting as a way to show their creative spirit since their day was filled with work from dawn to dusk and that was the only way that they could find the time to release their creativity. Therefore I used some famous paintings designed in a quilt to make a statement in my painting. At the opening reception a man came up to me and said, “You know what would be great, if you actually made the quilt.” I just could not believe he missed the point but you can’t get through to everyone. But with that painting, I felt that I had contributed to the conversation in the best way I knew and that was in a painting. It is sad that that painting still applies to the here and now. However, as you can see, I have not given up, but take the positive attitude that eventually things will change and we have to continue for the next generations of female artists. Keep knocking down those doors.

  42. Thank you for being fair and informed regarding the gender bias, and doing your part as a gallery owner to help rectify the situation. Sadly, I think that the bias has been so engrained in women’s minds as well as men’s that it is going to take a long time to change it. As much as I love the creativity of sites such as Etsy, unfortunately, I believe this is part of the problem. It is a site dedicated to what I’ll call “socially acceptable women’s work,” and the prices reflect that. I want to cry when I see work that must have taken hours and hours, and the woman who made it is getting pennies per hour for her hard work. Think of the amount we would pay a carpenter to come to our house and spend 10 hours carving designs into a wood staircase. How much would he get paid? And yet, how much do we pay these women crafters on Etsy to spend the equivalent amount of time on a project? It is sad to see society undervalue women. The bias is so fundamental, and so every-day, that we don’t even see it anymore.

    But, this is the society we live in, this is the bias, and this is the battle women artists face. It will take collectors and gallery owners to reverse the trend on the upper end. I fear that it will take much more to change the bias on the lower end.

  43. I visited, with a lot of my paintings in my car, a gallery owner who is “hot” here in Cleveland. He liked my work but said, “People don’t buy works of other people”, standing under a painting of another person. He said to try him in January. So I will. However, another gallery in downtown Cleveland has been framing my work lately and so I may try them first. The last outdoor show we attended here got rained out and several artists lost ceramic and glass art. This must be heart breaking for them. My website maker does a good job but she’s a perfectionist and never put a shopping mart there. I’m not too advanced in technology. I’ve sold a lot of art through galleries and in outdoor shows. But I’m glad I wasn’t in that last outdoor show in Lakewood.

  44. Time is a real issue. Interruptions are to be dependent upon, whether it entails taking care of family or all that basic chores that all households have. Typically a male artists has a wife who picks up the slack. Less time to work means less pieces to show. From what I could tell–among my friends at art school anyway–many women chose not to have children. Most of the better known abstraction expressionist women artists didn’t have children. There have long been biases against women for a variety of reasons. So that gets generalized. I can see a prejudice against women in art with an already built in bias. Having less inventory can be seen as a deficiency in women artists. I like working in the evening into the early night because all of the day’s interruptions are over.

  45. I’m not so sure I feel discriminated against locally as a female, but I found a markedly different response from men and women with regard to some of my subject matter.

    I’ve done several works that address breast cancer, a couple were nudes with one breast missing. The first one I had done was shown in several different venues. The women would stop, sometimes with tears, and would comment about how they could relate from their own, or a loved one’s experiences. The men, however, would walk past it, or ask “why didn’t you put the other one on her?” Because of the women’s reactions, I decided I couldn’t sell her, instead donating it to my university’s permanent collection.

  46. I am sure the discrimination is there however I never let it stop me. When receiving an award for my art I was referred to as “ his art being very different “ . The jurors had never met me and even with the name bettina they thought I was a man so there was a shocked look when a woman walked up to get the reward. I have found that because my work is out of the mainstream and quite different I have a smaller market. I have not found that being a woman has detracted any of my collectors nor did it affect any of the galleries I was involved with. I believe in my art and the time it took to create my style and thought process. Those who get what I do are both men and women the same is true for those who don’t. I think when one gets to the auction level- and a much smaller percentage of artists I would venture that male artists dominate that group and it will take time for that to equal out . The rest of us should just keep believing in ourselves, be persistent and keep making good art.

  47. Thank you Jason for bringing up this subject!
    What is amazing is that in 2023 there is still discrimination in the art world. One just needs to look at some major national western art shows.
    My parents did not discriminate between me and my brothers. I guess growing up on a ranch left little time for stuff like that. It was many years before I realized what discrimination was.
    My art career took off when, at the age of fifteen, I sold a a little watercolor for $5.00 to friends of my parents, I was hooked! Fast forward 10 or so years I am at the MONAC Western Art Show in Spokane WA. with one painting juried into the Auction! Mr. Ace Powell, a member of Cowboy Artists, came by my booth and asked me where’s the guy who did these paintings? When I told him I painted them, he pulled up a chair, and proceeded to share the ins and outs of being an artist! No gender mentioned. He was giving me information that worked for him and the Cowboy Artists’! All these years later I still can’t wait to get to work.
    I do not understand discrimination, by casting aside approximately
    half the artists, half the art works are also cast aside. We may never know the value, we as a society, has thrown away

  48. I can’t imagine women artists working any harder than they already do. Discrimination absolutely still exists in the art world. I conduct Feminist Museum Tours in California, and one trait I’ve noticed of the women whose work I feature during those tours (only 2% of the art you see in museums, on average, is by women so my tours last only about 1.5 hours) is that in their lifetime, they obtained prestigious awards – or public art assignments – for their work and were reviewed. They got press coverage and then collectors noticed them and added their work to their collections. Harriet Hosmer (the sculpture of Zenobia in Chains, for example at the Huntington) was written about by Nathaniel Hawthorne. THAT Nathaniel Hawthorne! I therefore would advise women artists to be unafraid to promote their work and use press to their advantage. Just “working harder” alone won’t do the trick. They have already been there and done that.

  49. For what it’s worth, my wife intellectually supports my art career, but not in terms of doing art-related work. I also do all of the grocery shopping and cooking. I enjoy cooking and she doesn’t.

    I am represented by nine galleries and the majority of the artists in these galleries are women. Maybe it’s different in the southeastern USA. This area includes Asheville NC and the surrounding region which is a mecca for purchasers of art. We relocated from the northeast.

    I started my art career at age fifty-one. I left the corporate world at fifty-four to do photography fulltime and sell through galleries. I do believe my business experience greatly helped me with my art career. It’s amazing how many artists, both male and female, don’t do the basics when working with galleries. Basically, be on time and deliver what you promise. And do everything you can to promote the galleries you are in. If the gallery owners know they can count on you, they will reach out to you when they are in a bind.

  50. Most of my favorite artists are women: Audrey Kawasaki, Amy Sol, Lori Early, Megan Lara…these are some of the most popular artists of our time. They graced all the pages of Juxtapoz Magazine in the early 2000s. Maybe some galleries discriminate, but not the ones I follow. Not to say it doesn’t exist.

  51. Thank you for this hopeful article Jason. Yes there is still a ceiling and discrimination but yes there has been definite improvement too. I pray I and we continue to press on breaking through this ceiling. About 15 years ago I took a workshop on from a very well known and successful male artist. While he was doing the demo we had this conversation. He told the class if a woman artist wants to be truly successful and able to dedicate to her work then she should not marry or have children. I was so offended and appalled.

  52. Here is a similar observation that I have been puzzling over. I have been a member of a national art group for many years. The group is about 90% women and 10% men. It is interesting that when the national shows happen that about 35% (or more) of the awards go to men. Year after year whether the judges are male or female this happens. I have received my fair share of awards and I am not complaining I just find it interesting. My guess is that many women artists treat their art more like a hobby whereas men tend to have more dedication to their craft.

  53. I live in Montana where galleries only focus on moose, bear, mountain lions, long horn steer and elk/deer, anything with antlers. So, not only does being a female artist get in the way of sales here, but, I am strictly an abstract artist. I don’t do much business in Montana, I practice a daily regime of online presence and sales as well as placing my work in retail as opposed to galleries. This works for me. I do not focus on the opportunities that aren’t available due to my gender and age (yes because I’m old) rather, I go after what is available.

  54. As if what Jason and all the comments above describe were not enough, women artists in Latin America need to contend with an additional problem: as if being a woman were not enough of a “drawback”, we also need to look good and be young or at least “young-looking” to be promoted or successful!!!! You can see it clearly in art fairs: stands with lovely. young artists get a far larger audience -no matter the quality of the art- than those fronted by overweight or older women artists.

    Since I aged and gained rather a lot of weight, I realize that clients feel let down and cool off regarding my art they ask a gallery to meet the artist. It is very sad that as my art gets better, I have fewer sales, or have to hide in order for them to happen. Or even when approaching galleries seeking representation. They are mostly owned by men. If a hot looking young artist approaches them or cold-calls at the gallery, they have way better chances of having an interview than if the caller is older or ugly or frumpy. I have experienced this myself, first the positive when I was younger, and the negative now I’m older and heavier.

    1. Yes, the bias is very real against both age and gender. For instance, I can generate significant brick and mortar Gallery interest with my portfolio, but when being interviewed there’s a shock to learn I use a cane and don’t travel that much. My marketability decreases because I’m not the young and beautiful social media queen. I think this is symptomatic of society today. Collectors want to be associated with the beautiful and popular, but the common people are left out in the cold no matter how good they are, unless you’re willing to use your disability or age to push the issue which I’m not willing to do because I feel it should be about my art not me. This is such a difficult and complex issue.

  55. I think this is most commented on article here I have seen. Interesting. When I did fairs several decades ago people made the assumption my husband was the artist and spoke to him even though he tended to hide in corner encouraging customers to speak with me. I have not had any issues for receiving gallery representation. Perhaps it is because one gallery was woman owned and another his wife was an artist. However, I noticed that the men’s art tends to be priced higher. One gallery sets the price (the woman owned of all things) and the other allows the artist to. The second gallery I will assume it is because we woman tend to set a lower value on what we do because of social training at a young age, Especially, us boomers. I still use my initials for my first and middle name. We are coming a long way but still have quite a way to go. I remember being asked if I had my husband’s permission to buy a car that I was purchasing with CASH I earned. Humiliating. No sale there!

  56. Hi All, so many great comments that are expressed from the heart of wonderful artists. I too have been struggling to get my work into galleries or just known to collectors. I work in a glass medium that is new to society. So that makes it even more difficult for people to accept this new medium. It takes so much time and effort to create the work, then market and promote. Some days, I doubt myself, I wonder if it is all worth it. But then I need to remind myself, i don’t need to prove myself in the art world or to anyone. It may seem to be a motivation in some ways but then it brings negative thoughts. So i decided, i just need to be authentic to myself and create a work of art that means something that comes from my heart. I have learned that I need to be authentic to myself. I know I don’t have everything figured out but I appreciate hearing from other artist. Mena

  57. I find your comment about male-exclusive clubs interesting, Jason – I feel somewhat guilty about the fact that I joined 4 women-only art organizations (2 of them I’m signature members) – although I do it more for the prestige and exhibition opportunities than for leveraging the fact I’m female.
    I grew up in a family where most of the women worked, and the one that didn’t certainly wasn’t a little-woman, she sure ‘wore the pants’ in that household. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do things just because I was a woman. There are things I can’t do because of strength, size or knowledge, but that’s true of anyone, regardless of gender.
    Once, in a truck-stop bathroom, I overheard to young women at the sink talking about the pros and cons of certain young men they knew, as potential providers. I couldn’t contain myself, and told them forget the guys, concentrate on yourselves, study, get a career and work hard, then if you marry it will be for love, not necessity, and you will never have to worry whether you get to take home the next paycheck. This is 21st century California, in the courts we have equality. Women pay alimony if they earn more than the ex husband. I did, and that is something they should aspire to and work towards. The two looked and me aghast and said ‘No one’s ever given us advice like that before.’ I hope they will take it.
    I just proceed in my art career the same way as I did in the 31 years of (male dominated) tech industry. Treat guys as equals and demand the same.

  58. Years ago I owned a frame shop/art gallery and went to move to a new location. The strip center owner would not rent to me unless my husband signed the lease even though it was not his business. He actually worked for me. I have experienced this prejudice because I am a woman, because I am far from thin, because I dont care about name brands- no labels for me , because I am not rich enough-I dont run in the right circles and even because I am white . Prejudice is out there taking all kinds of forms. I have learned to keep my mouth shut and move on. I am a good artist and business person and I rely on that. I just try harder and never burn a bridge.

  59. “Gladly, I think the days of a woman having to sign her art with only a first initial to obscure her gender are behind us…”
    I think you, as a male, might not be able to understand the entire picture. It’s absolutely NOT behind us. I myself still sign with my first initial, as I have for over 40 years.
    Women, let’s work harder! This is so messed up, and unfortunately so true! Yes we know we have to work harder, be better at what we do, always! We already work harder!

    I’m sorry this topic and your resolution to the problem touched on a pet peeve of mine. So tired of men telling us to work harder, be better, etc

  60. When I presented as a cisgender woman, my intelligence and abilities were often underestimated. Every gallery within 200 miles of my home is owned by a cishet man and one owner met with a male artist while I waited, and then met with me, and asked me very different questions and expected me to prove myself or to have a graduate degree in art, which he did not even think to ask of the male artist.

    Since presenting as a transgender man, I’ve found far more doors slammed in my face, not just by gallery owners, but by art fair coordinators and art customers as well. After mentioning that I, or the subject I painted, is trans, I literally had a man run away from me and trip and almost fall down in the process. I started getting art fair application denials for the reason that my art “doesn’t fit their theme” or “isn’t suitable for their event” etc even though it was considered on brand during the years before I came out and transitioned. The only art marketing advice Patrick at Art Store Fronts gave me was “you’ll never succeed as an artist so long as you continue to be something that is offensive to half the people in the nation” though ASF personnel usually tell everyone that their art is great and they just have an art selling problem (lack of an ASF website) bc they want everyone’s money. I always wait to see how art-related professionals treat everyone else in the room before making myself known as well, and the difference in treatment is occasionally nonexistent but sometimes shockingly, even traumatically different. There have been times when I thought I should give up bc the world just doesn’t want me or my art in it, or just isn’t ready for me yet. It’s taken a tremendous amount of strength and stubbornness to be where I am today doing what I do. So many new fans tell me “your art is so incredible, how are you not more famous??” and I just tell them I have hope that someday the world will see my art past my gender. I truly believe it will, I just hope that happens while I’m still alive to see it and benefit from it.

  61. I find this whole bit about discrimination a bit maddening. I understand that for millennia there has been discrimination and over the last few decades, we as a whole community have gotten much better. I believe it still exists to some degree but that it most certainly is not the norm, thank goodness. I say this as a full time artist (late starter), that has done as many as 26 shows in a year all over the southwest US, sold on Etsy at prices I set, ran my own gallery that had a mix of artists, am in multiple art associations, and worked for a high end contemporary art center. Every art assn. that I involved with is woman ran. Every gallery that I am currently showing in is woman owned and ran. Most art festivals that I have participated in are woman ran. Every art assn. that I know has a women in arts month. I used to work at a large contemporary art center in the city I live in and it was mostly women ran and the few men that worked there were treated as second class, we’re talking possible lawsuits level of discrimination. So I say, yes discrimination is out there but its not just against women and it is not the norm. It’s usually a one off, a moron of a person doing the discriminating. Like someone mentioned above, in my dealings with the general public as a gallery owner and as the face of the art center that I worked for, not one time did a client ask about sex on a piece of art. I have been denied the opportunity to show in many galleries, and festivals and not one time was it because of my sex, unless it was obviously a women in arts show. Of course, I didn’t apply to those.

    I mentor beginner artists of all ages and sexes. At no time has anyone come up with a roadblock to their growth as an artist or business person because of sex. Not once. To be a successful artist, one needs to do the things that one does to be successful in any endeavor. Work on your skills, find your crew, avoid the negatives, and take one step at a time. If a gallery owner doesn’t want your art, move on to the next gallery or open your own, become a woman business owner. Take a deep look at the art that you are creating. Is there a demand for it? Is it priced right for the market and for your own value? Are you doing all the small things that lead to success? If so, keep doing them. Set goals, and plans to achieve them one step at a time.

    All this being said, I think that in the art world, with the tools available to us now, we have the ability to make our own way and be successful. There are soooo many incredibly talented artists of all sexes that I see making a living out of their artwork. I love and appreciate them all. If someone doesn’t see the value of your art for whatever reason, move on. Keep creating. Much love, Tray.

  62. Only thing to add, regarding signatures:

    I move a lot. I’ve sold some every place I’ve lived. Not enough to brag about, but I have left a trail.

    When young, I started out signing either my first and maiden name, or just my maiden name. Over time, I married…twice…and added my husband(s) name to my signature. Since using two last names was kinda long, I dropped the first name and used just the initial. Over the years, the only thing consistent about my signature has been the maiden name.

    Yes, I knew about the practice of using initials to hide gender. Paid little attention to it. I knew about the so-called glass ceiling because one of my instructors flat out stated that teaching females was a waste of time because they are only going to become mothers. (He was brutal to everyone regardless of gender, frequently reduced students to tears. Good training against being too sensitive to criticism.)

    Nowadays, based on all the discussions I’ve read here, I just use three initials on the front, sign my name on the back with info about medium and varnish. No year of completion.

  63. If somebody buys a piece of art based on the gender of the artist, then they are slaves to their political agenda.

    Personally, I judge a piece by it’s composition, color pallet, style, and overall appeal. The last thing I look at is the identity of the artist.

    As a painter, my goal is to produce beautiful art. I am amused by other artists, who need to include angst, depression, social injustice, sexuality, and every other excuse to put onto canvas their own fragile feelings.

    It I wanted to surround myself with that stuff, I’d go hang out at a psychologist’s office.

  64. I’m an artist and an art dealer – and somewhat of a science geek. There ARE gender differences in artmaking. They are not hard and fast, because gender differences are not “hard and fast”. Nonetheless, there are many, many studies that have been done about drawing abilities, spatial awareness, and use of color. One of the more interesting is this one, that has to do with use of color, but cites numerous other studies also: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2158244013509254 . The point, to me, is that artists differ. They differ by gender, and – fortunately – by the individual works that they create. This is what makes the art world interesting. However, one of the significant factors that I believe has influenced discrimination against women, other than the general, overall discrimination existing throughout society, is that for a very long time, art has largely arisen from a predominantly rational-focused society (read male-focused). This has affected everything – the entire culture, including all businesses, not just art. It is only in the past several decades that this has begun to change and become more balanced, ergo, the greater interest in and acceptance of, women’s art. At last, culture has become more widely receptive to all of its members – and its about time. There may be some troglodyte holdouts, but they are fast disappearing.

  65. The problem is that, in the higher echelons of art, the merits of the art itself count less than the reputation/social connections of the artist. Why else does a designer who contracts out the actual labor of the piece to employees earn 5-7 figures for his signature, while an unknown artist creating a work stylistically similar to a famous painter is dismissed as a mere copyist? (Consider all the paintings that are downgraded as “Bob Ross” paintings, even those painted before Bob Ross started using his famous wet-in-wet technique). Or a guy throws paint-dipped worms on a canvas and wins an international contest with the result.

    Against that, who cares whether a gal signs with her first name? (Unless she’s got a very common last name; then she’d need her first name to distinguish herself.) I went from usung my casual name in high school, to using a sort-of monogram that I developed to initial my logbooks in college, to the monogram-into-last-name that I started using when judges didn’t like that my “signature” was only two letters. (and the paintbrushed version is slightly different than the scribble-sticked version)

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