When we study the statistics in the art world, it becomes quite obvious that after decades of “change”, the majority is still male. Sexism often goes undetected because it is so insidiously woven into the logic, language, and fabric of mainstream art.

Periodical Coverage

Men get much more coverage than women in magazines and other periodicals. Ads and art magazine covers are graced by male artists a lot more frequently. Of the 73 ads for New York art galleries in Artforum magazine’s 2014 issue, just 15% promoted solo exhibits by women. The magazine featured a woman artist on its cover just once that year.

Most children’s programs feature a majority of male characters, like the Smurfs, where there is just one female in the group. Similarly, Artforum’s “Best of 2005” issue granted women just 11 of the 69 solo-exhibition slots. Yet, this has somewhat improved – the “Best of 2014” issue featured women artists in 36 out of 95 total slots.

The Museums

Even powerful females in the art world feel that sexism plagues the industry. Female museum directors have gone on record saying that the senior management, comprised mostly of men, has full control of the institutions, often preventing them from bringing about important changes. According to a study on the art museum directorship gender gap in 2014, female art museum directors made much less money than male directors, and men occupied upper-level positions much more often.

On the plus side, women run 42.6 % of museums in the US today, compared to 32% in 2005. Unfortunately, they are mostly very small museums with limited budgets.


Some women who are influential in the art world are themselves prejudiced in favor of men, which is part of the problem. Frequently, women are excluded from exhibitions, within which you’d expect them to play important roles. The 1997 edition of Documenta, directed by Catherine David, featured only around 15% women. David was the first female director of Documenta, an unfortunate reminder that some female curators, even on very high levels, are not as aware of the issue as it would have been reasonable to hope.

In terms of Documenta, it seems like things are improving. Okwui Enwezor’s 2002 edition, lauded for its curatorial postcolonial strategy, included 29% women (34 out of a total of 118 artists). 2007’s edition, directed by Roger M. Buergel, included 47% women, or 53 out of 112.