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3.8.19

The art world is not immune to the gender inequities fought in every corner of our lives. Women have never been treated equally in the art world, and today they remain underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and auction houses. In an effort to shine a light on this inequality, we compiled the most annoying (and accurate) facts about women in the art world.

1. The top three museums in the world, the British Museum (est. 1753), the Louvre (est. 1793), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (est. 1870) have never had female directors.

2. There are no women in the top 0.03% of the auction market, where 41% of the profit is concentrated. Overall, 96.1% of artworks sold at auction are by male artists.

3. In a study of 820,000 exhibitions across the public and commercial sectors in 2018, only one third were by women artists.

4. In an analysis of  3,050 galleries,, economist Claire McAndrew found that as much as 10% of galleries have no women on their books at all, while only 8% represent more women than men. Almost half (48%) represent 25% or fewer women.

5. From the 16–19th centuries, women were barred from studying the nude model, which formed the basis for academic training and representation.

6. The most expensive work sold by a woman artist at auction, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, sold in 2014 for $44.4 million—over four hundred million dollars less than the auction record for a male artist: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold in 2017 for $450.3 million, shattering the previous record of $179.4 million for a work by Picasso.

Jimson Weed White Flower No. 1 
by Georgia O’Keefe

7. The record for the most expensive work by a living woman artist at auction was set in 2018 by Jenny Saville, whose painting Propped (1992) sold for $12.4 million. This sum is still dwarfed, of course, by the record for a living male artist, also set in 2018: a David Hockney painting that sold for $90.3 million. At the same sale where Saville made history, less than 10% of the rest of the works for sale were by women artists.

Propped by Jenny Saville

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