Gender & Success in the Arts

What role does gender play in the success of an artist today?

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11 thoughts on “Gender & Success in the Arts”

  1. Ooh… hot topic, Alyson.
    I’ve seen that men artists get more money for their work and rise to the top of the collector’s market a bit more quickly… in the past. But lately, I see many more women being promoted by galleries and invitational shows – these are artists that are not married to well known male artists!
    My friend, Kathy Anderson, is one example of someone who didn’t start to sell her work until her late 50’s, and now at age 64, she’s on the national scene and making a salary I only dream of. Katherine Stats is another woman who’s made great strides in her career at an older age. Greenhouse Gallery has done a great job of promoting her sell-out shows.
    Nancy Guzik will be teaching at this year’s Weekend With The Masters. She is truly a masterful painter and it’s about time that she step up to the plate and get as much recognition as her husband does (Richard Schmid). Her prices have a ways to go to catch up to his, but that shouldn’t have been the case. She’s every bit the painter he is. In fact, many people quietly say to me that they like her work better than his.

  2. Yes, I’ve certainly noticed that men get paid more…the gap is still there. I do think it is annoying though, then when a women is successful…suddenly everyone starts pointing out – hey, she’s a woman and actually made it! It seems the focus is on her gender, not her work… it’s really weird.

  3. I’ve come to the realization lately that the majority of artists that I run into are women. It was the same way when I was still in school – most of the art students were women. I’m not sure what has brought this about, and it could just be a regional thing for where I live, but I have noticed it. And in my region, at least, I haven’t noticed any kind of price gap between male and female artists. Most artists around here price in about the same range.
    And, to what Linda said about people pointing out that “hey, she’s a woman and actually made it!”, I’ve noticed that happening as well. But, I’ve noticed it beyond just women artists. It seems to me that people are often more interested in the story of the artist than the work of the artist. “Hey, he’s self taught and he made it” or “Hey, she’s a single mother of four and she made it” or “Hey, he started his life as a banker but now he’s a painter and he’s made it”. Usually those bouts of publicity mention a line or two about the actual work like “He’s moved from handling money to painting landscapes” and they have a small image of the artist’s work. Weird how people get into that more than the work itself.

  4. a professor told us years ago that although women made up the largest percentage of art students and graduates that the largest percentage of the money would always go to the male artists. i hoped it wasn’t true then…but i think it still is…now

  5. I believe that women are getting taken more seriously as artists these days, so that’s a step in the right direction.
    I’m very thankful that I was born in 1973 instead of 1773. Instead of a painting, I probably would have been going down to the creek to wash the clothes or churn butter in the barn. There surely wouldn’t have been any time for artistic endeavors for women…

  6. Angela Treat Lyon

    When I was doing research for who in the sculpture world bought what tools, a tool supplier told me that he’d done an informal demographic study of sculptors over the years. He found that, in the US alone, 85% of the stone sculptors were women. Yet we see how much women’s sculpture? Let’s get OUT there! Thanks for addressing this topic!

  7. In certain field there is definitely gender dominance . For example, fibers is woman dominant, as well as a lot of jewelry. I’m in art school right now, and it’s amazing how few men there are. Although I don’t know the effect on the buisness field yet.

  8. In my experience, and only my experience, at the early and mid-career commercial level I see little difference. What I do see is a lot of women who start groups with the goal of addressing why they as women find it all more difficult to run their art careers. These same groups seem to have a general lack of knowledge about the resources available, particularly online. But gender simply isn’t an explanation for this – it’s out there for all of us to research and find.
    I too run into a lot of women in this work, but finally tried to outreach to larger communities with more male artists to break out of the “women artists” society that feels to just sit in the same small circles. Why women start groups that to continue to isolate them away from the men they feel have more opportunties confuses me – if someone genuinely feels a disparity wouldn’t they *want* to network more with those people that have advantages or more information? Wouldn’t they want to know who they know, how they know them, what they do to promote themselves? A couple of my closest friends are male artists and they are nothing if not selflessly generous with ideas, leads, and encouragement.
    And to clarify, I in no way deny that there has been gender barriers or that they do exist in some places or mediums. I just far more often see gender used as an excuse. I’m sure I’ll be lynched for this. 😉

  9. I believe women and men with families and small children struggle to make art a serious career choice. It is in our genetic make up to be nurturing and put family needs first, so unless you view your art as a career, it can sometimes feel like a selfish indulgence. Setting a work schedule and boundaries can help solve this issue – I’ve actually thrown my husband out of the studio on a few occasions and have made it clear that unless the house is on fire, please do not knock on the door between 10am and 4pm just to ask, “Whatcha doing?”
    I do think women struggle with family issues more so than men. A few women artists I know actually market their husbands art (instead of their own?) handle bookkeeping, housekeeping and parenting tasks as well – then wonder why they can’t find time to pick up a paint brush! As women, we naturally like to have control over our household, but if you want to create art, you’re going to have to let some of that go. There are only so many hours in a day, but you get to choose what you’ll spend that time on. Hire some of those tasks out, or enlist family members to take up the slack. However, don’t expect overnight results. I had to “train” my family to respect my art as a career and it took about a year to make it stick.
    The bottom line is, it all comes down to passion and how badly you want it.

  10. The truth is that gender is alive and well in the institutional art market; i.e, museum settings, some galleries and that a woman artist’s best friend these days is the kind of strides made via the internet where allies in the arts such former curator, Alyson B. Stanfield and Ariane Goodwin are dedicated to artists ‘making it[‘ no matter what! Thank-you & kudos 1000% for all that you do with all creatives! Your commitment and work with the artist community empowers us in the marketplace!
    Having said that, gender plays a role as institutions take a long time to change; the fact that the public focuses in on whether a person labeled by their life-role, (single mom, etc.) “makes it,” is indicative of living in a capitalistic society. We are all wanting, nay in need, of figuring out how to “make it,” however that gets defined per person.
    In line with thinking about gender or any other “criteria” for making it in the world of art, I wonder if anyone here is tuned into #class? As it has just happened as of March 19, 2010 in NYC.
    These now recorded conversations begin to explore many issues such as the one raised in this article, though maybe not directly, in the big picture of consideration for all creatives.
    Like anything that matters, creating community to change something for the better, is what life always requires of us. Maybe we are witnessing an invitation to co-create right where we are, satellite versions of this first initiative, to further take on the art industry?!

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