Bonham’s Sale Highlights Gender Bias in Art

A closeup of a female hand holding a paintbrush.

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London auction house Bonham’s will have a women-only section in its upcoming Post-War and Contemporary art sale on February 11th. The section will include 11 female artists to help close the gender imbalance so prevalent in the art world and to shine light on the works of those artists.

According to Bonham’s, only 19 of the top 500 artists sold by value in 2014 were female. In 2012, only 6.5% of the works consigned to auction were by women. Additionally, works by men tend to sell at much higher prices than works by women artists—only 3% of works that sell for over a million dollars are by women.

Bonham’s sale will include five works by female artists in the Five Artists, Five Mediums section, which is dedicated to women artists. Each work will represent a different medium and a different artist.

“It is a truth now universally acknowledged that women artists, both dead and living, are woefully undervalued,” wrote Rachel Spence in the winter issue of Bonham’s Magazine. The works will include Germaine Richier’s Le Cheval à Six Têtes, whose estimated value rests between $285,000 and $429,000. Dadamaino’s plastic work Volume a Moduli Sfasti will also be displayed; the work has an estimated value of $50-$60,000.

Other artists include Carla Accardi and Louise Nevelson. Their works are expected to sell in a similar range to Dadamino’s. An early watercolor painting from Japanese pop artist Yayoi Kusama will be a prized piece as well.

“The works in this selection are connected by their existence in an undervalued area of the market but, more significantly, each has a distinct and fascinating individuality. Bonham’s is proud to be at the forefront of this shift in the market,” said Ralph Taylor, Bonham’s senior director of Post-War and Contemporary art.

The problem of gender disparity unfortunately remains prevalent in the art world. Some people would like to argue that there are no successful women artists, which is entirely too simplistic a point. There are great women artists—of course there are. But they are widely overshadowed by their male counterparts. But it is harder to become a “great” artist as a woman because the whole industry is against them, like most industries. Women receive less funding and less attention, making it more difficult to climb the ladder.

Lots of work remains to be done, but Bonham’s is helping!

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