As part of her ongoing public art project ‘Solange’, the Austrian artist Katharina Cibulka has turned her attention to her alma mater, the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Cibulka has taken over the facade of the art school with a monumental embroidered message: ‘As long as the art market is a boys’ club, I will be a feminist.’
The artwork will stay on view during the renovation works on the school’s main building in Schillerplatz until 2020. School rector Eva Blimlinger commented: ‘the path to the top is still long, because the art market is still dominated by men.’ Cibulka concurred: ‘There are still many hurdles to overcome in the international art market until men and women are placed on equal footing.’
Cibulka often mounts monumental textile works on the facades of building projects, espousing feminist politics – the choice of embroidery and construction materials comment on the gendered devision of labour. Her choice of text was apparently inspired by an interview with Tracey Emin, in which the artist said: ‘As long as any woman gets burned because she smiles at a man, as long as a teacher’s hand gets chopped off because she educates girls how to read, I will be a feminist.’
Auction sales for men are still dominated by men – though there is some slow progress being made. Anny Shaw reported in 2017 that increasing institutional recognition of female artists was impacting the art market, with a correlated increase in all-female commercial exhibitions and auction records.
But as Cibulka commented, there is still a long way to go before men and women are on an equal footing. A recent study of the UK art world suggested the problems might start after art school. The report found a significant disparity: female students outnumbering men while studying the arts, but men outnunbering women in later markers of professional artistic success (such as achieving gallery representation).