International Women’s Day 2020 by Charlotte Elliston

This week in the UK, we are celebrating the start of Women’s History Month, as well as looking forward to International Women’s Day on 8 March.

As an organisation working from an intersectional feminist standpoint, we love to take part in International Women’s Day and have had some (even though we say it ourselves) great events; from Y Not? , where we partnered with sister organisations Lensational and LPM to exhibit artworks internationally, to T’Art where we created our first collaborative zine and smashed the patriarchy in the form of Donald Trump, to our recent Intersect portraiture project at WOW Festival. Not forgetting of course, that Sweet ‘Art itself was founded with Show#1, our very first exhibition which took place for IWD 2013.

This year, we are having to take a back seat. An exhibition, to make it the showstopping all-singing-all-dancing event that our artists and visitors have come to expect, takes an awful lot of work (the vagina cupcakes alone take 2 days work). With limited time (and funds), we want to focus our energy in creating something more permanent – a home for Sweet ‘Art which we can occupy for longer than a week or two. So this is what we are working on behind-the-scenes, looking for ways to make this work.

We know that the work we do is still needed; The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, currently the only museum in the world dedicated to female visual artists, is using the hashtag #5WomenArtists, asking their followers if they can name five women artists – because, unfortunately, many people can’t!

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Looking back to our Intersect project in 2018

And we know lots of people have heard this before, but for those of you at the back, here are some stats about representation of women in the visual arts in the UK.

  • Only 9 out of 34 Turner Prize winners have been women (excluding this year where all 4 of the nominees shared the prize).
  • In 2017 only 28% of artists represented by major commercial galleries in London were women. (and over the past decade, 83% of LissonGallery’s solo shows, 71% of Hauser and Wirth’s solo shows, 88% of Gagosian’s shows, 76% of White Cube’s shows and 59% of Victoria Miro’s shows were by men)
  • 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.
  • In the National Gallery’s collection, paintings by female artists comprise less than 1%.
  • In terms of auction sales, the top female artist in 2018 was Yayoi Kusama, with sales of $102,532,176- far below the top male artist Pablo Picasso’s $602,865,747

So hopefully we can all agree that women continue to need support in reaching equality in the artworld. And that goes for double and treble when you look at things from an intersectional point of view and consider women with disabilities, trans women, women of colour, women from a working class background…

If ‘the arts contribute to collective identity through shared stories of experiences, including ones that challenge viewers to recognise the perspectives of the other’ then we really need to hear the voices of a multitude of women.

Sweet ‘Art are proud to have shown work by around 400 female artists since our formation, 79% of our total exhibited, in over 30 exhibitions. We hope to continue bringing you all exciting and challenging artwork for years to come. Thanks for all your support!

If you’ve ever been to a show, read our zine, had your portrait drawn or even checked out our pictures and artist work online, you might like to consider supporting us with either a one-off donation or via Patreon. For International Women’s Day we are offering our supporters an additional gift; if you are already a patron, or if you sign up to any tier between now and 9 March 2020, we are going to gift you one of our fab ‘reclaim’ totes as a thank you! Go on, you know you want one!

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Nab yourself a fab ‘reclaim’ tote by becoming our patron.