This International Women's Day Auction has a totally different format to other years. We have invited seven female curators to each create an auction of female identifying artists, which will all run concurrently from 23rd February to 9th March. Read on to discover Beth Greenacre's collection, what it was like to work with David Bowie, and the artists she's currently championing.
We're very excited about having seven female curators for this year's AOAP International Women's Day Auction. Do you think it's harder for women to be successful in the art world than it is for men?
I do sadly…. Female artists remain under-represented in the art world despite outnumbering men studying in art school; currently, while 66% of art students on postgraduate courses are female or non-binary, 67% of the artists represented by commercial galleries in the UK are male. Women and non-binary artists accounted for 32% of the works acquired for Tate’s collection in 2021: a small improvement that does little to address the historic gender balance. The National Gallery acquired four works in 2021, all by men; of the 2,300 works in the collection, 24 are by women.
Thankfully other areas, such as the non-commercial sector are making bigger strides. The number of female artists representing Great Britain at the Venice Biennale now sits at a 50/50 split over the past 10 years. The Turner Prize, too, has most frequently been awarded to women, with 66% of winners over the last decade identifying as female. And in terms of institutional exhibitions, the percentage of solo shows dedicated to women in non-commercial galleries and museums rose from 39% in 2017 to 55% in 2019.
In 2019 the representation of living female artists in commercial galleries in London was up 4% over two years, but was still only 32%. The traditional auction houses continue to show incredibly slow progress. The Freelands Foundation Report of 2019 (where all the previously stated data is sourced from) revealed that one of the main London auction houses increased the number of female artists across their evening sales by just 2% in 2019 compared to the previous year, and that 80% of the ten highest-grossing sales were works by men. Between 2008 and 2019 women made just 2% of the worldwide auction market and so it would appear that auction houses - remain confused as to how staggeringly marginalised women’s contribution to art is, in terms of value and also representation.
Can you tell us about how you got to the position you are in today?
Hard work, belief, and conviction in the art world artists and myself as well as some good luck along the way… I graduated from The Courtauld Institute of Art and Birkbeck University and from early in my career until the artists’ death, I worked with David Bowie as curator of his collection. That was a major catalyst and driver in getting to where I am today.
At AOAP we always try to champion rising talent. What emerging artist are you most excited about in your auction?
I am very excited by the brilliant Caroline Zurmely who I have included in the forthcoming auction. Caroline, who lives and works in Dallas, Texas uses nail polish in her practice which explores tabloid photography and scenes of public intrigue in tight close-ups… some of us remember these scenes regardless of the cropping and distance in time, inviting a sense of the uncanny and intimacy.
I am also a huge fan of Karyn Lyons who creates scenes from girlhood which balance the dark with the dreamlike, I am transported back to awkward kisses and the sense of anxiety and excitement via the lens of contemporary cinema and society portraitists from art historical.
I am thrilled to include Pam Evelyn as an artists I have been following for some time and who I think is making exceptional paintings that explore the possibilities, and properties of her chosen medium and the history of painting, from the AbEx generation to British Moderns such as Lanyon and Auerbach.
What upcoming projects are you looking forward to in 2023?
I am curating an exhibition with Vortic which is a platform that provides an exceptional programme of exhibitions within the Vortic digital and virtual world. I have been excited about the potential of the digital to encourage access to art and connect with wider audiences for many years and the platform offers the highest quality digital viewing experience opportunities for incredible content and reach. The exhibition I am working on explores what happens when artists use mirrors physically, literally, or allegorically in their art practice. The exhibition called, I’ll be your mirror, will run from 17 April for 12 weeks and includes Eduard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies Bergère from The Courtauld Collection. Manet use of the mirror makes his painting one of the most mysterious, brilliant and compelling paintings in recent Western art history and it continues to incide deabte to this day. The exhibition includes contemporary artists such as Robert Longo, María Berrío, Christopher Page and Laura Lancaster alongside work by historical figures such as Francesca Woodman, Camille Billops, Claude Cahun and Paula Rego.