Gender statistics in the art market: hanging (im)balance

Image courtesy of winnifredxoxo, Flickr.

Women artists remain undervalued in the prices their artwork commands and underrepresented in major art competitions, according to new research.

The online marketplace for art, Kooness, recently analysed gender in the art industry and compiled statistics on how much artists earn on average, the gender of prestigious art award winners and the number of listings in galleries.

Key findings from 2019 include the difference in average value of male artwork, €3,629.46, compared with the female average of €2,925.58. Based on the 440 artists used for the study, it also found that male artists earn 24% more on average than do female artists.

Courtesy of Kooness.

And the award goes to

The Turner Prize has seen 25 male winners and 10 female winners, while the ratio of those awarded the MacArthur Fellowship – since its inception – is 200 (men) to 130 (women).

But the world’s biggest art prize– the $1m Nomura Art Award – was won by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo in 2019. And Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu’s sculptures drape the façade of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  

Rossella Farinotti, chief curator at Kooness, said: “Only 37.7% of art award winners are women, potentially showing that it’s not just people viewing art as a hobby that undervalues the female artist – the professional art industry also needs to step up with regards to equality.

Farinotti added: “More needs to be done to change the view that female-created art is worth less than a male artist’s piece.”

Top of the lots

Deloitte’s Art & Finance Report 2019 states that female artists only accounted for 5% of guaranteed value in Post-War and Contemporary evening sales between 2015 and 2018. Last year, the most expensive painting to sell was Claude Monet’s $110.7m Meules (1891). But not one of 2019’s top 10 lots were created by a female artist.

The list ranges from blue-chip artists such as Picasso, Cézanne and Monet, to established artists Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Jeff Koons.

While the names Yayoi Kusama, Joan Mitchell and Georgia O’Keeffe form the list of most-prominent female artists out there; according to Artnet, only five (including these three) account for $1.6bn of the $4bn total spent on work by women over the past 12 years. The others are Louise Bourgeois and Agnes Martin – whose works achieved $258.5m and $172m respectively from 2008-2019. 

Jenny Saville holds the current record for a living female artist at $12.5m (with fees), for her 1992 painting Propped. Though the market for work by women is understood to have doubled over the past decade, according to Artnet, it is still less than the total sales for works by Picasso alone.

Jenny Saville, Propped, 1992.