Gender Disparity in Major London Galleries Has Got Worse, A New Study Shows

Across UK galleries and universities, women are continuing to lose out, according to latest report commissioned by the Freelands Foundation

Lubaina Himid, The Carrot Piece, 1985, acrylic paint on plywood, wood and cardboard, and string, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and Hollybush Gardens; photograph: Andy Keate

Lubaina Himid, The Carrot Piece, 1985, acrylic paint on plywood, wood and cardboard, and string, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and Hollybush Gardens; photograph: Andy Keate

Lubaina Himid, The Carrot Piece, 1985, acrylic paint on plywood, wood and cardboard, and string, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and Hollybush Gardens; photograph: Andy Keate

new report commissioned by the Freelands Foundation shows an increasing gender disparity in the London art world. Examining figures collected over the past year, the report, compiled by curator Marijke Steedman, argues: ‘Female artists are still under-represented in the art world in 2017 despite outnumbering men studying in art school.’ The study finds that this art world gender disparity is pronounced in the professional markers of an artist’s career, such as securing commercial representation or having a solo exhibition at a London institution. Furthermore, the report says that women academics are more likely to be paid less than their male peers in university art departments.

The representation of women in London's commercial gallery sector has reached a new low. The report finds that across 2017 only 28% of artists represented by major commercial galleries in London were women, a fall from 29% in the Foundation’s report from last year, examining 2016 figures. At major commercial galleries in London during Frieze Week 2017, only 21% of shows were by women artists, half the amount (42%) in 2016.

At London’s major institutions only 22% of solo shows in 2017 were by female artists, falling by 8% since 2016 and by 3% since 2014–15. Outside of London the figures improve: 47% of commissions at the latest Folkestone Triennial, Glasgow International and Liverpool Biennial were by women and the number of solo shows by female artists in major institutions outside of London has risen by 17% since 2016.

In the auction industry, just 3% of lots for the highest grossing Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sales were artworks by women. ‘These grim statistics indicate that women continue to be excluded from the mainstream commercial art market despite their best efforts to participate,’ the study says. 

In university art faculties, a pronounced gender pay gap still persists, with only 41% of the best-paid academics being women. Meanwhile 61% of the lowest-paid part-time academics are women. There is, the report says, a ‘distinct contrast’ between this figure and the 63% of women studying creative arts and design at undergraduate level, and 66% of women at postgraduate.

‘Female students studying creative arts and design continued to outnumber men, while men outnumbered women in the majority of activities that signify the development of an artist’s career,’ the report says. It paints much the same picture that the Foundation found in its report released last year, which examined female representation across 2016 – a significant amount of women outnumbering men while studying the arts, but with the disparity flipping to women being underrepresented in terms of professional success.

The findings of the Freelands Foundation report, published yearly since 2015, follow on from a spate of recent studies examining gender disparity in other areas of the creative sector. New figures compiled by the Women in Music project show that in 1,445 classical music concerts held across the world this year, only 76 included at least one work by a woman. And a study published last week by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has concluded that film critics in the US are overwhelmingly white and male.

Meanwhile the Freelands Foundation has named its shortlist for its 2018 Awards, which comes with a GBP£100,000 prize for a non-London-based UK arts institution working with mid-career female artists (GBP£25,000 of the award goes to the artist). The winner will be announced in the autumn. Shortlisted institutions are the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast, Bristol’s Spike Island and Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield.

Most Read

The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
The punk activist-artists have been charged with disruption after they charged the field during the France vs Croatia...
27 educators are taking the London gallery to an employment tribunal, demanding that they be recognized as employees
In further news: Glasgow School of Art to be rebuilt; Philadelphia Museum of Art gets a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant
Highlights from Condo New York 2018 and Commonwealth and Council at 47 Canal: the summer shows to see
Knussen’s music laid out each component as ‘precarious, vulnerable, exposed’ – and his conducting similarly worked from...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018