Having a conversation about Gender Gap in 2021 seems old school rhetoric and for this reason many people are still ignoring it. The numbers are speaking for themselves and I personally find them quite shocking. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, established in Washington DC, there are some serious discrepancies in the art market:
- There is a 47.6% discount for women’s art at auction. Adams, et al., “Is Gender in the Eye of the Beholder?”
- Nearly half (45.8%) of visual artists in the United States are women; on average, they earn 74¢ for every dollar made by male artists. National Endowment for the Arts.
On this important topic, I had the pleasure to interview Swedish-American artist, activist and feminist Michele Pred who has been actively campaigning on this issue for many years. Michele also creates visually engaging artworks featuring women’s vintage purses with empowering messages using electroluminescent wire. Recently the Victoria & Albert Museum in London has featured Michele’s bag “My Body My Business” in the landmark exhibition “Bag: Inside Out“, alongside bags created by Tracey Emin and Barbara Kruger.
– D.B.D. How do you believe we can help close the gender pay and racial gap for visual artist? Michele Pred
M.P. I believe the most effective method to close the gender pay gap is for women to raise their prices by 15%. This number came from a survey that was conducted in the US and it was aimed at identifying the most accurate number. I also think that social media, such as Clubhouse, IG and Zoom are effective methods to inspire, empower and spread the word about closing the gender pay gap in the arts.
The Art of Equal Pay campaign—a national initiative to decrease the gender and racial pay gap for visual artists that launched in 2020, and is relaunching in 2021. Women artists working with me will be increasing their prices by 15 percent on Equal Pay Day, 3/24 to highlight and combat the wage gap in the arts—women artists make, on average, 15 less than their male peers.
The campaign premise is simple: women artists raise their prices in protest of the gender wage gap in art—and gallerists, collectors, art lovers and activists alike pledge to support them. Anyone can take the campaign pledge as an individual or on behalf of an organization here.
This year, I have also launched a survey to measure the quantitative and qualitative impacts of sexism, racism, and economic inequality in the arts. Little data exists on pay inequity in visual arts, and it can also be hard to measure in such a subjective field.
– D.B.D. What can we all do to reduce this gap?
M.P. I’ve learned from this project that many women artists are hesitant and even scared to raise their prices—wondering: “Am I worth it?”, or “Will someone actually pay more for my artwork?”. Patriarchy is deeply ingrained in us all. It’s particularly difficult as many women artists are barely selling any artwork to start with. But if we don’t take the risk, how long will we wait for equal pay?
On a practical level find out which museums, galleries, and nonprofit art spaces where you live, make an effort to exhibit work by women artists. Visit these spaces often and become a supporter. Donate to nonprofit arts organisations that work toward achieving gender equality. Follow women artists on social media. Try to buy works of art made by women.
And now let’s get all to work…a lot STILL needs to be done. There are several private and public collections dedicated to the support of women artist, one worth mentioning is Artemizia Foundation that champions diversity in gender, ethnicity and worldview. I also admire the work of MIA Art Foundation where the focus is promoting women artists and their work.