Art, like most things in life, can be a bit of a boys’ club. A recent article by the Huffington Post highlights this problem, shining a light on 11 women artists whose work should be displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. While MOMA has displayed women’s art in the past, including several installations and women-specific exhibits, most of the art on display at MOMA is by male artists. MOMA runs a website dedicated to modern women artists, but its most recent update was in 2010.
Huffington Post’s list includes inspirational women artists like Venezuelan sculptor Marisol Escobar, paintings from Agnes Martin, and the late Louise Bourgeois’ massive sculptures of spiders. While the list does not aim—and could not hope—to be comprehensive, it does illuminate the stunning work of many women while simultaneously exposing their lack of representation in modern art galleries. The underrepresentation of female artists is not located simply to MOMA, though as one of the most highly-regarded art museums in the world, it is disheartening to see its current statistics.
In a 2013 article for Vulture, American art critic Jerry Saltz presents some unsettling statistics about MOMA’s history with female artists: “At the 2004 grand-opening show, there were 415 works on view on the museum’s fourth and fifth floors. Of these, fewer than 20 were by women. Less than 5 percent. In 2006, 19 were by women. A year later, the number was 14.” Saltz deliberately does not blame current curator of painting and sculpture at MOMA, Ann Temkin, for the oversights, pointing instead to a culture which values male work and male creation above female artistry in almost every instance. The problem, Saltz suggests, is the system that prefers to tell only part of the story of art history. As of 2013, according to Saltz, roughly 8% of the works on display at MOMA were by women—not a great number by any measurement, but a small improvement over previous years.