Women Artists Underrepresented at Art Basel 2014

Women Artists Underrepresented at Art Basel 2014
Photo by Hans Morgenstern

Micol Hebron had a standout Art Basel. She performed Roll Call , a Carolee Schneemann-inspired performance during which Hebron read aloud the low percentages of women artists represented by art galleries, information written on scroll that she slowly unfurled from her vagina. Anyone familiar with Hebron's work would have hardly been shocked by the performance, Hebron's been spearheading Gallery Talley, a long-term project that counts the male/female breadowns of gallery rosters. According to Gallery Talley's estimation, only 30 percent of the artists represented by commercial galleries are women.

In between her performances, Hebron took the time to apply the metrics of Gallery Talley to Art Basel.

See also: Women-Led "Auto Body" Explores Breadth of Human Emotion Through Film, Performance

And, unsurprisingly, the gender breakdowns at Basel were not particularly impressive. Hebron counted the number of worked by women artists at thirty-one of the art fair's booths -- not a huge number, but a pretty sizable sample. The percentage of women represented ranged from 0%-64% and seems to average around 30% (You can see the entire breakdown here).

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While Hebron's numbers were unsettling, if sadly typical, then the response of gallerists and dealers was perhaps the most disturbing aspect. "I approached all of the galleries with the same question I did last year, stating objectively that I was simply doing gender in the arts," Hebron told Hyperallergic. "This year I was met with more preemptive responses, with people more quickly saying things like, 'Oh, you are not going to be happy with our numbers,' indicating that they have surmised that I was interested in the underrepresentation of women."

But if some dealers were at least aware that they were discriminating against women artists, then others provided some boneheadedly stupid answers to Hebron's questions. One told Hebron that women have "the privilege of the choice to give up their careers to have families," while another told her that exhibition's focus on conceptual, text-based work was better suited for men. Most honestly, another told Hebron that "I just curate what I like, and I like art by men better."

While Art Basel remained committed to the status quo, Miami-based galleries proved more progressive. Spinello Projects who, despite an official Basel snub, earned much-deserved praise with their exhibition Auto Body - was last on Hebron's list. The gallery showed performance pieces all of which were by women. Here's hoping that Miami galleries - and not Art Basel visitors - continue to set the tone.

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