Tuesday 19 July 2011

A great variety of art. Not a great variety of artists.

An image from the Hackney Hoard show at Galerie 8

This year I have written in celebration of the Max Mara Art Prize for women, showcased at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The Whitechapel has an excellent track record in supporting women artists: its comeback show after months of restoration featured the work of Goshka Macuga and Isa Genzken, amongst others. Even the thinking behind the Turner Prize, notorious within the art world for being awarded to such a small number of women artists over the long duration of its history, has transformed in the last ten years, with a marked increase in women shortlistees and women winners. This is all to the credit of the art world, which has been quicker on its feet than the literary and classical music worlds when it comes to crediting women for our creativity and intellect. Recent major exhibitions and retrospectives in the UK have given cultural space to Maria Lassnig, Polly Morgan, photographer Dorothy Bohm (at Manchester Art Gallery), Marina Ambramovich, Fiona Banner, Nancy Spero, Annette Messager, Eva Rothschild, Tracey Emin (currently on at the Hayward) and Susan Hiller and I have every hope that this trend will continue. In the last few years Emin and Barbara Kruger have represented Britain and America respectively at the Venice Biennale (Emin being only the 2nd female artist ever to do so) and I hope their presence counteracts somewhat the utterly damning art world statistics given on the Guerilla Girls' brilliant posters, which I saw at the 2005 Biennale.

It's heartening to see an entire international industry and a great and grand discipline with centuries of history change in so short a time. I feel hopeful...until I read Brian Sewell's openly misogynistic ripdowns of Tracey Emin and Susan Hiller, until I realise that only one of the major newspapers picked up on the Women Make Sculpture show at the Pangolin Gallery - and until I get a press release like the below:

Hackney Hoard
Opening celebration: Thursday 21 July 2011 / 6 - 9 PM
With a special performance by Doug Fishbone

GALERIE8 proudly presents Hackney Hoard, a project initiated by celebrated artist and amateur London historian Adam Dant. The exhibition takes the discovery and narrative surrounding the find of the “Hackney Hoard” as a starting point and what follows, is an inquiry of the value and status placed on contemporary art objects.

Including an introduction by finder Terence Castle, and artworks by Adam Dant, Le Gun artists, Matthew Killick, Annabel Tilley, and Gavin Turk.

The Hackney Hoard exhibition is part of GALERIE8's summer opening series of events entitled Launching Pad to begin its residency within the Arthaus building. This diverse exhibition, both visual and interactive, engaging and reflective, will include a series based on events, sound and performance art, a publishing fair, film screenings and theatre evenings.

Le Gun are a collective of illustrators whose work is exciting, fresh and original. The collective is made up of 8 men and 1 woman. Of the rest of the named artists invited to participate in Hackney Hoard, there are 4 men (Adam Dant, Matthew Killick, Gavin Turk and Doug Fishbone) and 1 woman, Annabel Tilley. I am sure that all are excellent - as well as Le Gun, I love Gavin Turk's work. But don't tell me that a grand total of 12 men and 2 women participants is anything like a free and fair representation of all the possible creativity, genius, artistry, insight, history, performance, collaboration, energy and thinking that the show's organisers could have accessed. The PRs for these exhibitions are always, of course, female. I wonder how they feel, working so hard to support projects whose perks and credit go only to the men in power. I have run out of interest in perpetrators' excuses, lies and victim-blaming ("it's women's fault - women are scarce - shy - small - unpushy - having babies - emotional - absent - less bothered about success/fame/money/career"). Don't tell me that it's just a funny and sad coincidence that all the really really great work is done by men and all the really really shit work is done by women and, hey, that's just how it is. I mean, the current Galerie 8 show features a woman artist, Mary Yacoob, so they obviously know some. The audience for all cultural events in all disciplines from dance to music to literature to art to design to theatre is always at least half and usually majority female. We deserve better. Turn it around.