Fangirls! In a recent conversation with my super rad art school student best friend, we got talking about a group called the Guerrilla Girls. She had brought them to my attention, and I ended up learning a whole lot from it. Though of course there are many celebrated female artists, they are so far from equal to their male counterparts. In the mid 80s, the Guerrilla Girls realized just how unfair the art world is, and decided to band together to make that just as known to other people too.
These are some pretty bad ass ladies, Fangirls. They pretty aggressively (but non violently of course) took a stand against museum & art curators to pretty much ask them “Hey, what’s the deal with the complete lack of female artists being represented?” It all started in 1985, in response to an 1984 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA produced an exhibit called “An International Survey of Recent Painting & Sculpture” It was said to be a survey of the most important contemporary artists. So, it was a pretty big deal. But, it became an even bigger deal when only 13 of the 169 artists featured were female. The Guerrilla Girls were then born out of anger & protest of the exhibition.
The group was formed by seven women artists. After the initial protest of MoMA, the group began making stickers, billboards, artwork & posters to bring awareness to the unfair conditions for female artists and artists of color. They arranged public speaking events & protests, and conducted research to back up their feelings. They started conducting things they called “Weenie Counts” where members would go to museums & galleries and count the ratio of male to female works & subjects. For example, they concluded that in the Modern Arts sections of the Met, less than 5% of the pieces were by female artists, but 85% of the nude portraits were female. This specific statistic is what prompted there first billboard, wherein they directly called the Met out on their inequality.
The Guerrilla Girls were pretty relentless in their efforts to gain international attention for these issues. They would place ads & posters in subways next to ads for museums like the Met, and would litter the bathroom stalls of art museums with stickers & statistics about gender inequality in the art world. They refused to let these facts be ignored. As artists though, they were so creative & witty about it all. The group published multiple books, including one in 2004 for that made me giggle. It was titled the Guerrilla Girl’s Museum Activity Book, and mimicked the style of the activity books they hand out to children at museums. In it were activities revealing major faults in museum collections & culture. The group is also said to currently have a book about the concept of hysteria in the works.
Through all their efforts, the group did create some positive changes in the art world. In addition to more awareness of sexism, they also made it so dealers & curators were held a bit more accountable. They also target subjects like politics, film & Hollywood, racism, and other topics within feminism. Ironically, the work of the Guerrilla Girls has now been featured in a lot of major art museums, including ones that they’ve directly targeted, such as MoMA.
Whenever you need to hear a pick me up story about women totally kicking ass, look to the Guerrilla Girls, Fangirls. They shook the art world, and made a very important impact. The Girls and their other two branches are still active and making awesome things.
Check them out at their website GuerrillaGirls.com!
All images are copyright of their respective owners.