(en)Gendered (in)Equality: The Gallery Tally Poster Project, Venus of Willendorf

Copyright © 2010 - 2017 Marin Abell. info@marinabell.org

ForYourArt gallery in Los Angeles hosted an exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Micol Hebron’s collaborative crowd-sourced social engagement poster project (en)Gendered (in)Equity: The Gallery Tally Poster Project during Women’s History Month in 2014, featuring over 300 posters, each created by a different artist, representing gender ratios at various art galleries. In Micol’s words, “While it is a common assumption that there is a male-biased imbalance in gender representation in the art world, the data - the actual numbers of artists - have not been visualized and publicized since the Guerrilla Girls’ efforts in the 1980s.”

I chose the 30,000 year old Venus of Willendorf as my subject for my poster because she has come to represent ground zero of feminine creativity. Here however, I smuggled her into a local sex shop maligned amongst sex toys as a symbol of art gallery psyche.

Months prior to the “Gallery Tally Project” (GTP) exhibit, I was with Micol at an American Impressionism exhibit in Alabama, where we noticed that of the 50 artists, two were women - a statistic identical to a 2012 exhibition “50 American Artists” at my hometown arts center. Micol also commented that one painting revealed a nude woman with completely shaved pubic hair, something she had seen more and more, as if male artists were rendering females younger and more desirable. A kind of aesthetic violence.

My GTP experience has been one of awakening as to how I’m entangled with a history that has excluded women. A myth of objectivism exists in art institutions that fails to account for how women experience the art gallery. For example, I’ve noticed women artists criticized for depicting their personal struggles, for earning money off work that deals with issues like rape, but I haven’t noticed that same controversy over women writers who’ve published memoirs containing the same message. Perhaps our society reacts differently to the immediacy of content in image-form.

As a child, my father routinely enrolled me in art classes, and I was always the only guy. As I moved up the grades I saw more males in classes, but for too many females there was a transition into obscurity. Why? Women may be more concerned than men with starting a family. Or perhaps men have a value of the art they make from having existed in a world of work that quantifies the value of their labor. Even though far more women are in the workforce now, perhaps they’re not used to knowing their worth. Things may be getting better, but there’s lingering residual pain.

For me, the GTP is saying that what sells isn’t talent, but rather, works that have sold for a lot in the past, i.e., predominantly male art. Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological work reveals that training is not available to all, and that the culture that gets passed on is largely the dominant class’s. Thus schooling reinforces social differences. As art’s existence depends upon an institutional framework that authorizes those who will become practitioners, the “catch 22” is that not everybody has access to the prerequisite training. And once produced, an artist’s efforts must be re-inserted back into the system. It is here that the GTP is shining light on deeply entrenched female exclusion.

I was compelled to participate in the GTP because it meant discovering what, with my academic training, is the telos of my discipline and to more fully understand what I have been made to serve. I created this piece to imply that women’s role in the gallery has not been that of creator, but as object depicted. Through participation I can try to increase the prerequisite awareness that leads to change: a gallery market where all women can sign their names, not simply initial their works.

Coincidentally I met the Artistic Director of Hustler magazine photographing my piece for his boss.

To participate in the project please visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/514330251981431/

For more information on the project please explore these media mentions:

HuffingtonPost, “LA Gallery Tally: Calling for Gender Equity in the Art World”, CarrieYury, October 16, 2013:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carrie-yury/la-gallery-tally-calling-_b_4102116.html

ArtilleryMagazine (cover story!), “Super Inequality: Micol Hebron challenges the genderratio” by Carol Cheh, January/February 2014: http://artillerymag.com/super-inequality/

Hyperallergic,“Tallying Art World Inequality One Gallery At a Time”, by Jillian Steinhauer,March 27, 2014:


ArtSlant, byNatalie Hegert, May 3rd, 2014:


marin abell