New initiative to help museums acquire work by female artists - Museums Association

New initiative to help museums acquire work by female artists

Contemporary Art Society partners with philanthropist
Profile image for Rebecca Atkinson
Rebecca Atkinson
Museums will be encouraged to address the gender imbalance in public art collections through a new initiative set to launch next April.

Under the scheme, the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) and the philanthropist Valeria Napoleone will purchase and donate a significant work by a living female artist to a UK museum each year. The project has no upper funding limits, and will run on an annual basis for the foreseeable future.

The CAS’s 67 museum members will be able to apply to the scheme from next April. The only stipulation is that the work is by a living female artist.

Caroline Douglas, the director of the CAS, said it was open-minded about what applications would be successful: “It’s a question of looking at the proposals and selecting a set of circumstances where we feel we can support the artist at the right time of her career. We hope this is something that will build into a substantial project over time.”

The successful museum will undertake a period of research supported by the CAS. The work purchased will be presented in a display at Camden Arts Centre in January 2017 before forming the centrepiece of a solo show for the artist at the recipient museum.

It is hoped that as well as supporting museums acquire work by female artists, the project will also raise awareness of the gender imbalance across many museum collections.

“Museum collections necessarily reflect historical gender imbalances and the 20th and 21st centuries have seen many more female artists achieving international recognition,” Douglas said.

An audit of 29 non-commercial galleries in London carried out by the East London Fawcett Group between April 2012 and April 2013 found that two thirds of the galleries exhibited more than 60% male solo exhibitions, and only one gallery exhibited an equal number of male and female solo shows.

In the same year, only 21% of works by living artists acquired by Tate were by women, although 36% of artists represented in that year’s acquisitions were female.

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