ART♀STS

Among the artists included in the list of the 100 most expensive artists at auctions, do you know how many of them are women?

Seriously, think about it.

Are you thinking?

Do you have a number in your mind? Keep it there.

The right answer is 2. Out of 100, only 2 of the most expensive artists at auctions are women. Anyone guessed right? Let me know in the comments!

© Artsy

Quite impressive, isn’t it? That number speaks for itself, I believe.

Some say that actually price is not the right, or only, way to judge and have a perception of today’s art world, meaning that there are other factors that come into play when we enter the world of the art market and artwork prices. So, on one hand, the majority of artworks that are now valued as the most expensive are usually made by deceased artists from the past century or more, and thus were produced in a time where women were less considered and had less opportunities to become known for their artistic talent. This, then, reflects on the artworks purchased nowadays – fewer female artists’ works are sold in auctions.

On the other hand, however, it is no excuse, and it is important to recognise that there can be no excuse so that nothing is ever taken for granted. The worst that could happen in the future is that we accept what we have achieved, and we stop being aware of those inequalities that could happen around us. From my point of view, what really matters is awareness, knowing how the world was and is, and what we can try to do to change it in the future. What matters is being true to one’s beliefs.

Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum?, 1989 © Guerrilla Girls

The Guerrilla Girls have been one of the first group of artists to address inequality in the art world. Formed in the mid 80s, they write:

‘We are a group of women artists and art professionals who fight discrimination. We’re the conscience of the art world, counterparts to the mostly male traditions of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Batman, and the Lone Ranger. We have produced over 80 posters, printed projects, and actions that expose sexism and racism in the art world and culture at large’

They have attracted more and more attention and now their posters have been awarded with places in the most famous modern and contemporary art galleries of the world, like Tate Modern and MoMA. Are they bringing change from the inside or have they just accepted fame and been victim of those same art institutions that they used to criticise? They say it’s the former, I like to think the same.

You’re Seeing Less Than Half The Picture, 1989 © Guerrilla Girls

However, I don’t think that you necessarily have to be a feminist collective to become a popular female artist. That is why I feel that it is important to try and let people know that there are a lot female artists out there. For contemporary art, I have noticed that there are SO MANY whose work is AMAZING, but they are less known, and their work is not yet exhibited in major museums. Maybe this is also because I am growing more and more interest in digital art, and I am focusing on those contemporary artists that are working with video, 3D, VR, photography, or whatever medium that is slightly less traditional than usual, and thus not yet exhibited by major museums.

So – to conclude, in the next articles I am going to help you discover some female artists that you HAVE to know. I want to attract people’s attention not only on female figures that have been an important part of history of art, but also on those who are becoming popular right now, or are still considered as emerging artists. The majority of them working with digital mediums, not yet that famous to be exhibited in museums. I hope, most of all, that it can be an interesting source of information, and that you can discover new things and broaden your horizons.

ART♀ST

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REVIEW(ish): T. Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears’

‘Ms. Emin’s nihilism is so intensely passionate that it amounts to her life force. It is carried (…) primarily by language (…). In this day of multiple media and blurred boundaries between disciplines, it still seems that she might be less an artist than a writer, whose autobiography and hard-won philosophy of life would work best in book form. But in whatever form Ms. Emin chooses to work, one thing seems clear: she’s all voice.’ Roberta Smith, NYT

Yes, I know, I haven’t chosen something easy to write about, especially being this my first article.

Today Tracey Emin is one of the most controversial contemporary artists, some say that her works are ‘too much’: too much depression, too much sadness, too much passion. She knows how to provoke the viewer, she knows how to make us feel. It is as if she was saying ‘You can choose whether to open yourselves to my artworks and accept whatever emotions they may cause you, or you can go on living emotionless your gray and dull life’. Because despite all the tragedies she went through, her life is a blaze of colours.

Tracey Emin with My Bed, Tate Britain, 2015 © Guy Bell

Tracey Emin was born in 1963 in London, and she is one of the most well-known British contemporary artists of today. Her arguably most famous work is My Bed, exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1999 and which represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2007. The bed (yup, the artwork title is quite self-explanatory) exhibited was the actual bed where she spent hours and hours smoking, eating, or having sexual intercourses in a quite difficult period of her life. For this reason, her artwork attracted not little media attention: it wasn’t just a bed, it was a bed surrounded by empty alcohol bottles, sheets full of weird stains, used condoms and empty cigarettes packets. Some thought ‘I didn’t come to an art gallery to see used condoms!”, but thankfully a lot more people appreciated the underlying intensity of her sorrow and despair.

Oh, yeah, she is also famous because in 1997 she appeared drunk on TV in the discussion panel of the program ‘The Death of Painting’ (…or ‘Is Painting Dead?’, according to The Guardian). I actually looked for the video but couldn’t find it (please, share the link if you do!).

The entrance of the exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey, 2019 © Virginia Bianchi

Tracey Emin’s ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ is now on at White Cube Bermondsey until April 7. If you’re in London, GO AND SEE IT. I mean it. (If it wasn’t clear enough, it was quite a long time that I wasn’t that emotional about an exhibition).

The artworks exhibited are how Tracey translated her sufferings into material, artistic objects. Each and every one of them (and they’re quite a large number) is a punch in the stomach of the visitor. Starting from the first room, where fifty self-portraits taken during her sleepless nights of insomnia are hanged on the walls, the intimacy of her devastated glances made me feel naked and uneasy, almost as if the ghosts haunting her nights were in that same room, with me.

Insomnia Room Installation, 2018 © Virginia Bianchi

Those very same ghosts are the ones that appear in the next exhibited artworks: her passed away mother and her unborn child… or actually children – in the exhibition only one abortion is fully mentioned, but she had two: ‘After three [abortions] you start going mad. I’ve had two and I’m borderline.’

The ghosts of motherhood and femininity pervade the rest of the exhibition: the two naked bronze sculptures laying on the floor, leaving us to wonder whether they are unborn foetus or despairing figures; the paintings, representing female figures drawn with such an anger that sometimes they just seem splashes of blood on the canvas; or the silent video she made filming slowly, with a deathly calm, her mother’s box of ashes. The last piece of the exhibition is a 22 minutes-long video where she tells us of her first traumatising abortion in 1990, and of how that experience has had a profound impact on the rest of her life. Her strength, once again, consists in how she doesn’t hide, how she explains in full details how it went, how she calmly doesn’t spare us anything of that story.

In one document, contained in one of the two vitrines collecting intimate and improvised writings from her archive – some are also on sheets with the logo of hotels where she was staying -, she writes ‘Always so alone, so scared – so not wanted.’ And she has that incredible power that only very few artists have nowadays, of making the viewer feel discomfort as if her despair was theirs.

But, of course, only if you are open to embrace her works. That is why she is such a controversial artist: by thinking rationally, by examining her technique, one will never get to the bottom of her works. I feel it to be a bit like looking at a Pollock and saying ‘My child could have done that!’ One also need to consider the fortnights of tears the author spent creating that same artwork you are admiring today.

No Love, 2018 © Virginia Bianchi
(from left) I watched you disappear. Pink Ghost, 2018; I was too young to be carrying your Ashes, 2017-18; You were still There, 2018 © Virginia Bianchi