Get the Facts

© Guerrilla Girls, Courtesy
Guerrilla Girls, Horror on the National Mall!, 2007; Gift of Susan Fisher Sterling in honor of Steven Scott;

Did you know? Get the facts about gender disparity in the arts, and see what the Guerrilla Girls have to say.

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•  51% of visual artists today are women; on average, they earn 81¢ for every dollar made by male artists.1

Work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe,  and 34% in Australian state museums.2, 3

Of 590 major exhibitions by nearly 70 institutions in the U.S. from 2007–2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists.4

ArtReview’s 2016 Power 100 list of the “most influential people in the contemporary art world” was 32% women, 70% white, and 51% European.

•   “The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters.”—Georgia O’Keeffe 6 

Only 27 women (out of 318 artists) are represented in the 9th edition of H.W. Janson’s survey, History of Art—up from zero in the 1980s. 17

•  From the 16–19th centuries, women were barred from studying the nude model, which formed the basis for academic training and representation.8

Though women earn half of the MFAs granted in the U.S., only 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries are women. In Australia, the ratio is 75% to 40%. 9, 3

•   “This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.”—artist-instructor Hans Hofmanns “compliment” to Lee Krasner 6

Women lag behind men in directorships held at museums with budgets over $15 million, holding 30% of art museum director positions and earning 75¢ for every dollar earned by male directors. 15

•   The top three museums in the world, the British Museum (est. 1753), the Louvre (est. 1793), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (est. 1870) have never had female directors.

Only five women made the list of the top 100 artists by cumulative auction value between 2011-2016. 11

•   In the list of top 100 individual works sold between 2011-2016, only two artists were women. Of those 100 artworks, 75 of them came from just 5 male artists11 

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, which sold for $44.4 million in 2014, is nearly twice the price of the second most expensive work by a female artist, Louise Bourgeois’s Spider, which sold for $28.2 million in 2015.   Though it doesn’t come close to the top two world auction records held, naturally, by male artists: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold in 2017 for $450.3 million, shattering the previous record of $179.4 million for Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger in 2015. 12, 13

Venice Biennale: The 2009 edition featured 43% women; in 2013, it dropped to 26%. In 2015, it was 33%, and in 2017 was 35%.  No major international exhibition of contemporary art has achieved gender parity. 14, 16

The good news is that, while in 2005, women ran 32% of the museums in the United States, they now run 47.6%—albeit mainly the ones with the smallest budgets. 10, 15

Here’s What the Guerrilla Girls Have to Say

The Guerrilla Girls is a group of women artists and arts professionals who fight discrimination.

The group reframes the question: “Why haven’t there been more great women artists throughout Western history?” Instead, they ask: “Why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout Western history?”

The Guerrilla Girls created the poster, Horror on the National Mall! (shown above), in honor of NMWA’s 20th Anniversary. The poster even highlights our living founder: “Ever wonder why Billie Holladay started the National Museum of Women in the Arts? Now you know!”

Check out some of the Guerrilla Girlss facts:

  • Less than 4% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 76% of the nudes are female.

In 1723, Dutch painter Margareta Haverman was expelled from the Académie Royale when the painting she submitted was judged too good to have been done by a woman.

  • Things have not changed much since 12th century England: women who embroidered earned 83% less per day than their male peers.

1  National Endowment for the Arts, “Artists and Arts Workers in the United States: Findings from the American Community Survey (2005-2009) and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (2010), 2011.
2  Judy Chicago, We Women Artists Refuse to be Written out of History,” The Guardian, 2012.
3  The Countess Report, 2014.
4  Harris, Gareth, Julia Halperin, and Javier Pes. What does a female artist have to do to get a major solo show? The Art Newspaper, 2016.
5   We Broke Down ArtReview’s Power 100 by Race, Gender, Profession, and Place of Birth,” Artsy, 2016.
6  The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art, 1998.
7  Hilarie M. Sheets, “Female Artists Are (Finally) Getting Their Turn,” The New York Times, 2016. 
8  Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art, and Society, 4th edition, 2007.
9  Jillian Steinhauer, “Tallying Art World Inequality, One Gallery at a Time,” Hyperallergic, 2014.
10  Association of American Art Museum Directors, “The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships,” 2014.
11  Eileen Kinsella, “artnet News Names the 100 Most Collectible Living Artists,” artnet News, 2016.
12  Rain Embuscado, “artnet News's Top 10 Most Expensive Women Artists at Auction 2016,” artnet News, 2016
13 Robin Pogrebin and Scott Reyburn, “Leonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million, Shattering Auction Highs,” The New York Times, 2017.
14  Reilly, “Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes,” ARTnews, 2015.
15  Association of American Art Museum Directors, “The Ongoing Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships,” 2017.
16Venice Biennale Artists by the Numbers,” Artsy, 2017
17 Janson’s Basic History of Western Art (9th Edition), 2014




National Museum of Women in the Arts