Advocacy in the Arts: The Guerrilla Girls

The Guerrilla Girls are a feminist art collective who have been influencing the art world since 1980 when they released their first piece, “Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get Into the Met Museum?”. The group once consisted of 30 anonymous women from the art world but as the years have passed membership is down to about 6 women who go by names of artists like Frida Kahlo, Kathe Kollwitz and Alice Neel. In 1984 the guerrilla Girls visited the different museums throughout the city and conducted a survey of one person shows featuring a female artist or artist of color. The results were very disheartening. Though thirty years have passed the Guerrilla girls found that in 2015 fewer than 10% of all Artists in museums throughout the city were women or people of color. Many art critics of the time disliked the Guerrilla Girls strongly as they felt they were talentless and simply victimized themselves in order to create a viable career. However as time passed certain critics like Roberta Smith of the New York Times grew fond of the group and their social criticism.

 

 

Similarly to the project discussed before the Guerrilla girls criticized the willingness of museums to sexualize women and represent them nude yet their hesitance to represent their own work. When the Guerrilla Girls employed counting in 1985 they discovered that 85% of the nudes in the Met were female yet only 5% of the artists represented were women. Through these kind of projects the simple act of counting became a radical tool of protest. These numbers were fact, they were not propaganda and they allowed people to see in a stark and numerical way the social phenomenons that were occurring. The Guerrilla Girls have pieces in 6 major museums as of today yet this social success did not translate financially. Today their posters can be bought quite cheaply online. Through the eyes of current Guerrilla Girls they did not do it for the money however, and thought their original goal was to focus on street art their growing presence in institutions and museums allows them a wider audience. One current member who goes by the pseudonym Kathe Kollwitz said that, “We want our work to be preserved as an antidote to all the market-driven art that museums collect to make their trustees happy”. Their art was always intended to depart from the capitalism which has become so prominent in the art world today and to instead focus on corruption in pop culture and art.

Through their anonymity the members of the collective are able to focus the discussion on issues rather than on their identities as individuals. Their humor and activism have melded through art to influence art consumers and members of the art world for thirty years. To the Guerrilla Girls feminism should be an inherent aspect of art, and representation of all genders and ethnicities is central to non corrupt museums and galleries. They use the simple act of counting and taking notice to reveal deep injustices and the overlooked parts of our society.

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