Putting women in positions of curatorial power is another way that female artists may gain some ground. Over the last 15 years, women have gone from running only a third of art museums to directing almost almost half, albeit those with smaller budgets for acquisitions. The three largest art museums in the world - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Museum, and The Louvre - have never had a female director. But in our corner of the Southeast, the majority of museums have women as either directors or lead curators, or both. The North Carolina Museum of Art, CAM, The Nasher at Duke University, the Ackland at The University of North Carolina, and The Mint Museum, all have women leading their curatorial choices. As Driver points out, this must necessarily affect which art gets exhibited. And exhibition choices are important to sales - museum exhibitions give contemporary artists, whose art may be untested in the market, a measure of legitimacy that bolsters prices.
Some female artists have been hesitant to be identified on the basis of their gender, declining, for instance, to participate in women-only exhibitions that have been curated for the purpose of overcoming the gender gap. After all, if being a woman means a lower price tag on your art, you might not want to highlight your gender. But Driver, who is a woman of color, a demographic that is doubly marginalized, thinks highlighting women for their gender is still imperative. “Statistically, we haven’t reached that place where being a woman doesn’t need to be called out.” And increasingly female collectors are in a place to promote female artists. As Driver points out, currently “women are more educated than men, earning more
graduate and undergraduate degrees. We create wealth, inherit money, and outlive our
spouses, which makes us sole controllers of our wealth. Women control 51%
of our country’s wealth today. That will mean a lot when it comes to women “matronizing” the
arts.” And there’s good news for the “matrons” among us: as the world wakes up to the value of art by women, the work of female artists is appreciating at a rate 9 times higher than that of men.
*Infographic made with the photograph "Union City Blues, Brooklyn, New York" by British photographer Muzi Quawson
View the results of The Contemporary Art Auction