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"Female artists are the bargain in today's markets."
May 25, 2012 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Conservative Art Critic Brian Sewel born in 1931: "The art market is not sexist," Mr Sewell said. "The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank. There has never been a first-rank woman artist.... ...Maybe it's something to do with bearing children." Top contemporary Art Dealer and collector Iwan Wirth born in 1970: "..Female artists are the bargain in today's markets...It's a constant source of disappointment to see the discrepancy in prices between outstanding female artists and their male counterparts....

Times are a changing? Is it a generational thing? Iwan Wirth seems to think so. He is one of the most powerful players in contemporary art today and that is saying a lot.


Mr Wirth, however, believes things could change. "The problem has been that female artists have been historically excluded from museums," he told The Art Newspaper. "Now there are more female curators and a new generation of male curators rewriting art history."

The recent Economist article that has been making the rounds: The price of being female suggests the same: "Attitudes are changing generationally," says Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of post-war and contemporary art development at Christie's.

Jerry Saltz chimes in, more here, here..

Is it time to invest in art made by women?

And of course no post on this subject would be right without a hats off to the Guerrilla Girls.
posted by snaparapans (33 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's good that female salespeople and commodity-makers are gaining fairer marketshare and more interest from investors.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brian Sewell is also known for his accent, who has been said to "make the Queen sound rough". He's so hilariously over-the-top posh and arrogant, it's really, really hard to take him seriously.

So, in the spirit of not taking him seriously, here's a Brian Sewell Soundboard!
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


You didn't quote the most jaw-dropping bit from Sewell (for me, anyway): ""Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness."
posted by gaspode at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2012


(I do think it's good if things are becoming fairer, I'm just unsettled by the conflation of artist merit with art market success. I would describe it as woman gaining status in a status market.)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:12 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joakim Ziegler, that Soundboard is a thing of pure posh pretentious wonder. Where on earth is the foreskin clip from? How can anyone put that much RRR into "incorruptible" without being a posh pirate or, in fact, Italian?

It's true, Sewell. As an American lady, there is no way my accent is capable of that much greatness. You win.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:21 AM on May 25, 2012


"The art market is not sexist"

The invisible hand of the market is, in fact, jerking itself off.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:30 AM on May 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: yes I agree, he is a comic.. he walked back his sexism with this quote, in response to a question as to whether he is a misogynist: As for women painters, I suspect that intuitively they are more intellectually honest than male painters, better judges of themselves and more inclined to retreat into deserved obscurity. Look at women who are famous for their art and you find nothing but blind immodesty.

posted by snaparapans at 11:31 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


jetlagaddict: "Where on earth is the foreskin clip from? How"

Apparently, Sewell is also an anti-circumcision activist.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:33 AM on May 25, 2012


gaspode: You didn't quote the most jaw-dropping bit from Sewell

Yeah, I figured readers would get to it.. I wanted to streamline the post.. but for me the most outrageous part was his attributing the fact that women are not great artists because they bear children. I have actually heard that from smart, educated, left leaning men who are not so old. Really hard to get my head around how someone can think that. It goes beyond putting art aside to raise kids, and implies that since men cannot bear children they make great art. What a load of sexist hogwash.
posted by snaparapans at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Related: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlin.

Awesome to think it could be changing. It's worth noting that a big part of Nochlin's argument is to do with how many men artists are sons of other well-regarded artists, and since 1988 when she wrote it, Kiki Smith, daughter of Tony Smith, has become a pretty big deal lady as far as contemporary art goes.

Also it seems sort of weird to me how they compare Louise Bourgeois and Lucian Freud, because they make really different work, I mean, wanting to buy weird figurative paintings is, I imagine, a pretty different market than giant spider sculptures and confessional objects.
posted by fireflies at 11:47 AM on May 25, 2012


I'm not really that interested in what most white Westerners are doing (the big names today, like Damien Hirst, are to me completely and utterly worthless), but to my mind the greatest artists in the world today are women: specifically, aboriginal Australian women like Dorothy Napangardi, Emily Kngwarreye, and Kathleen Petyarre.
posted by Fnarf at 12:01 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


fireflies: Thanks for linking to the Linda Nochlin essay. Absolutely essential reading for the subject matter of this post.

nor have there been any great Lithuanian jazz pianists, nor Eskimo tennis players, no matter how much we might wish there had been..
posted by snaparapans at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2012


I like this from Wikipedia: 'In 1994, 35 art world signatories wrote a letter to the Evening Standard attacking Sewell for "homophobia", "misogyny", "demagogy", "hypocrisy", "artistic prejudice", "formulaic insults and predictable scurrility".'

He does like to tick all the boxes.
posted by biffa at 12:40 PM on May 25, 2012


Fnarf: I'm not really that interested in what most white Westerners are doing...

well there is sexism all over the art market globe...NYT recently wrote about the Parity Gap for Women in Indian Art.

Top selling women artists like Kngwarreye, have been accused of selling out, and making work that is more appealing to western art tastes.

It does appear that these women artist are also following the same pattern that western women artists are seeing, more of a market share.. and higher prices. There is still a loooooong way to go.
posted by snaparapans at 12:41 PM on May 25, 2012


Having recently seen the In Wonderland exhibit at LACMA I can tell you there were plenty of great women artists in the 20th century. And that's just among the surrealists. They just didn't get the attention [or market value] they deserve.

That particular show had works by - to name a few:
Frida Kahlo
Rosa Rolanda
Dorr Bothwell
Leonora Carrington
Dorothea Tanning
Bridget Tichenor
Remedios Varo
posted by Rashomon at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My woman, a Canadian poet, has been having discussions recently with other female writers about the fact that the women's writing is under-reviewed in the Canadian press. They decided to get scientific about it and actually count. Turns out, it's not just under-represented but essentially ignored. And it's not that women aren't producing. One mainstream critic, his feelings apparently hurt, has responded that he has plenty of writing to review, he just chooses not to.

And, she says, the conferences basically consist of male writers holding court while everyone (men and women) fawns over them. So, in this little corner of the art world, at least, it really is a man's world.
posted by klanawa at 2:10 PM on May 25, 2012


One of the problems is, in terms of historical practice, for a long time their was a strict line of separation between craft and art. Women did craft--but we did not consider the work they did as legitimate. Another problem, is this v. butch idea of masterworks by master artists, so this competition and measuring becomes more important than what is happening with the work itself.

I could list a dozen or so painters that are women that I think are better than most men, but it's a silly game.

(A couple of interesting side notes: about Nochlin and father/son transference, I wonder if that is the case of Cady Noland. I also think that it's really interesting, that the medium where men and women are equal in terms of capital, prestige and cannonicity is photography, a medium I am sure that Sewell views as invalid.)
posted by PinkMoose at 2:14 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rashomon: "That particular show had works by - to name a few:"

It's interesting to me that of those 7, 5 were Mexican (some born, others naturalized). I'm uncertain what it means, though, other than that maybe the surrealist scene in Mexico was particularly open to women artists?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


> nor have there been any great Lithuanian jazz pianists

Slava Ganelin. As it happens, Lithuania has had a very hip jazz scene for decades. This is what happens when you pull seemingly absurd examples out of your hat, people!
posted by languagehat at 2:27 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


languagehat: This is what happens when you pull seemingly absurd examples out of your hat, people!

Sorry that was not clear, it was a quote from Linda Nochlin's essay from 1971: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

The example counters the usual excuses as to why there are no great women artists, arguing that the reasons are due to social forces not biological ones.
posted by snaparapans at 3:01 PM on May 25, 2012


PinkMoose : I wonder if that is the case of Cady Noland

Great example of one of Nochlin's points. Also she hold the auction record for a woman artist with her 1989 piece Oozewald: $6.6 million..

She is a great artist, who's father was Kenneth Noland also a great artist.
posted by snaparapans at 3:09 PM on May 25, 2012


Oozewald is amazing, thanks!
posted by sneebler at 4:58 PM on May 25, 2012


Joakim Ziegler at 2:20 PM

True, many of the women named in my post were from Mexico. The reason is because the In Wonderland exhibit is a show of work by North American woman. I know there are plenty of women outside of Mexico who created great work but I just listed a few of those from the show. I'm sure someone will do a show of work from women in Europe or Africa or any number of Asian countries. Maybe someone already has? It's a big art world out there.
posted by Rashomon at 9:01 PM on May 25, 2012


Tangentially related, but does anyone have a good recommendation for a book about the experience of being a museum curator? I've always been interested in how museums build their collections and would love to read a first-hand account of how the sausage gets made, so to speak.
posted by C^3 at 9:13 PM on May 25, 2012


does anyone have a good recommendation for a book about the experience of being a museum curator

John McPhee's piece about Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, entitled "A Roomful of Hovings", can be found in the book of that name, or online at The New Yorker, where it first appeared. Maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but in the ballpark.

And if it hooks you on McPhee, who never wrote an uninteresting sentence, even on subjects as mundane as oranges or canoes or discarded tires, you have a couple of million words of happiness ahead of you.
posted by Fnarf at 9:46 PM on May 25, 2012




> Sorry that was not clear, it was a quote from Linda Nochlin's essay from 1971: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

The example counters the usual excuses as to why there are no great women artists, arguing that the reasons are due to social forces not biological ones.


No, I knew it was from Nochlin, and I should have been clearer that I wasn't directing my snark at you—sorry!
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on May 26, 2012


(I was focusing on the need to defend the honor of Lithuanian jazz...)
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on May 26, 2012


Great post, snaparapans, thanks.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:55 PM on May 26, 2012


Metafilter: focusing on the need to defend the honor of Lithuanian jazz.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:08 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've tolerated a lot of nonsense from Sewell over the years, but Bridget Riley is of the second or third rank? What a silly billy.

On the other hand, he did inadvertently give us Brian Badonde.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 3:20 AM on May 28, 2012


Quantum's Deadly Fist: Hilarious clip!

One thing that seems apparent is that Sewell does not take himself so deadly seriously, unlike most conservative critics. He is able to laugh at himself.
posted by snaparapans at 7:50 AM on May 28, 2012


some female artists are professional such as Lempicka and mary cassatt.
posted by lewingcn at 9:25 PM on June 2, 2012


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