Guerrilla Girls Take On Irish Arts Exclusion of Women
Published: Thursday, August 05, 2010
In 2008, 86% of solo museum exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art were of male artists. It is not that there are no women around. Solo exhibitions by women at IMMA represented 44% of the total in 2004, so there has been a steep decline to 14%. Just 5% of the artists in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland are women.
The exclusion begins long before female artists are well known. For instance, the membership of the Royal Hibernian Academy is 76 percent male and the Royal Ulster Academy is 69 percent male. Displayed on the wall of no.76 John Street, the Arts Office Gallery, in bright yellows, hot pinks and fashioned greens is the Guerrilla Girls' big question: "Seventy-one percent of Irish Art Students are women. If you're not going to exhibit them, collect them, or let them join art academics, why bother educating them?"
Across the room, an open wall titled, "I'm not a feminist, but if I was, this is what I would complain about..." led to sincere postings as invite guests are invited to pick up markers and compose. Men and women who attended the gallery opening wrote about the difficulty in obtaining an abortion, the lack of women in government, and the catcalls women receive as they walk down the street.
The National Women's Council of Ireland CEO, Susan McKay, took part in a panel event with the Guerrilla Girls in 2009. "They are brilliant," she said. "The work they do is really important in highlighting sexism in the arts and they do it with such style and humour. We are grateful they've turned their attention to Ireland - now it is time for the gatekeepers of our leading arts institutions to take a look at their practices and get more art by women up on those walls."
Mary Butler, the Kilkenny County Arts Officer has chosen to display not just the Guerrilla Girls work on Ireland, but also a selection from their twenty-five years of work from across the globe. "As the Arts Office was part of the 2009 Guerrilla Girls All Ireland tour I felt it was imperative that we bring back the fruits of their labour, I also thought it important to put their work into context and reveal aspects of the previous the twenty five years of their work, these are significant facts and its important they are out in the open!" A job well done indeed.
Guerrilla Girls coloring books make this show fun for the whole family and the last night on 24 September will include feminist story telling and readings of feminist fairy tales. And it is free.
Guerrilla Girls All Ireland Project at no. 76 John Street (For the duration of the Arts Festival 6-15 August Mon. - Sat 10:00am-5:00pm, Sundays from 11:00am-5:00pm, remainder of the exhibition Mon - Fri 10am - 5pm daily). Also in Kilkenny on Friday, August 13, the Arts Festival has a debate on Forty Years of Feminism at the Ormonde Hotel Kilbride Suite. The tickets are only €13 (or €11 for seniors, students, and unwaged) so grab them quickly because the discussion already moved to a larger venue due to the high demand.
Guerrilla Girls Kilkenny County Council Arts Office Links: http://www.kilkennyarts.ie/events/details/visual-art-strand-2-guerrilla-girls/
Forty Years of Feminism Link: http://www.kilkennyarts.ie/events/details/feminism-panel-discussion/