Meet the Curator: Mollie Barnes

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. We will be introducing each of the curators on our blog, starting with Mollie Barnes, an independent curator and Residency Coordinator, founder of @she_curates_

Register to Bid in Mollie's Mini Auction


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 think - sadly - it is hard to argue otherwise with recent (and not so recent!) findings. For example those exploring the huge pay gaps between male and female artists. 

Forbes published an article last year highlighting the ‘$192 Billion Gender Gap in Art’, demonstrating gaps between highest prices paid for works ($450 million for Leonoardo Da Vinci, and $44.4 million for Georgia O’Keefe), ($901 million for Jeff Koons and $12.4 million for Jenny Saville.) 

Dr Gorrill’s recent research explored how art ‘done by a man’ is worth 10 times as much as a woman. “…worse than that - if a woman's name is on the canvas, the price decreases even further.” This meant that “for every £1 a male artist earns for his work, a woman earns a mere 10p.”

As well as monetary statistics, it is often we hear stories of female artists experiencing ‘mid-career stagnation’, issues of how the art world (in general) does not take into account the needs of artist parents, how 51% of visual artists are women, though 78% of UK galleries represent more men than women, that Freelands Foundation reported women and non-binary artists accounted for only 32% of Tate’s acquired works, and none of the works acquired by the National Gallery in 2021.

I think it is harder, but there have also been some amazing initiatives, with even more to come. It’s an exciting, and I think, hopeful, time.

Can you tell us about how you got to the position you are in today?

I wouldn’t have done anything without support of incredible people. I am eternally grateful to the amazing people who have been so generous with their time, support, mentorship and work to help me continue doing this job that I love. I’m very lucky to be around so many wonderful people. 

At AOAP we always try to champion rising talent. What emerging artist are you most excited about in your auction?

AOAP has an incredible reputation for supporting and spotting incredible talent! 

This is a difficult question – they are all such incredible talents. Two artists I have worked with for a long time, and are going from strength to strength, are Ofunne Azinge and Precious Opara. What amazing artists. 

What artwork would you buy if money was no object?

I’ve recently been really, really excited by photography. If I could buy any artwork, I think I would acquire a work from icon Catherine Opie, or Claude Cahun.

What upcoming projects are you looking forward to in 2023?

I’m lucky to be working with a number of incredible artists this year on a series of exhibitions. 

Projects I’m excited to experience as a visitor are visiting Zanele Muholi’s exhibition, Sonia Boyce’s solo in Margate, Annis Harrison at Quench and Catherine Murphy at Sadie Coles. 

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