Should galleries display more art by women?

Eileen Cooper, the Royal Academy’s first female Keeper wants a quota system to ensure equality between male and female members

One of the Royal Academy of Arts’ most senior figures has called for a quota to ensure equality between the balance of male and female members. Eileen Cooper, the first woman to be appointed to the role of Keeper of the Royal Academy in 2011, also thinks that national collections should display more works by women artists.

“We have amazing artists emerging from art schools and the women and the men are as strong as each other,” she says in the summer edition of the RA magazine, but adds that the women subsequently tend to have less exposure and success. “Why are women’s voices not seen as being interesting?”

The Keeper, who is responsible for the RA’s art school, is elected from among the Royal Academicians. “I would have preferred not to get involved,” she says. “But the statistics are so ridiculously shocking.”

In 2011-12, about 62 per cent of arts and design students in the UK were female. That year an audit of London Galleries found that just 31 per cent presented work by women.

“Unless you think that women make worse art, you must conclude that the art world fails female artists,” she says, adding that “institutions, including the RA, should consider some type of quota, formal or informal”.

Of the 125 current Royal Academicians, only about a fifth are women. “All these statistics really shocked me. I never realised things were that bad. Outstanding women are overlooked, and we need to bring them to attention.”

The problem is perpetuated among the biggest galleries in the country, which should be buying more living women artists, Cooper explains. Last year, only 21 per cent of the works by living artists bought by the Tate were by female artists. “They should buy more work by women and display more.”

It becomes a vicious circle. “Because women artists aren’t as widely collected by the museums they aren’t as widely known or promoted as much. It’s great when women fly, like Cornelia Parker and Tracey Emin, but there is still a lot to think about.” The good news is that the RA is up for the discussion, she says. “No one is rolling their eyes when it comes up.”

One unique issue that female artists face, Cooper insists, is art history “which is overwhelmingly about male artists”.

She adds: “My worry is that unless we challenge preconceptions today as strongly as possible, in 100 years’ time younger generations will look upon 21st-century art as a male pursuit, in the same way that we now regard earlier art.”

There has been a similar issue in the US, with Los Angeles artist Micol Hebron highlighting the issue of inequality between the genders on display in galleries with her feminist art project Gallery Tally.

Meanwhile, as part of the drive to get artists to calculate galleries’ gender ration, artist Cara Despain calculated that the total percentage of female artists in galleries in LA and New York was just 32.3 per cent.

Yet Helena Morrissey, who chairs the RA’s corporate board and has been an advocate for women in the boardroom, disagrees with Ms Cooper . Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management, oversees the UK Thirty Per Cent Club, business leaders aiming towards 30 per cent of board directors on FTSE 100 companies, but says positive discrimination is unproductive.

“It would be potentially counter-productive to have women represented in exhibitions, collections or institutions who did not deserve to be there,” she says.

One artist who appears to have changed his views on women artists is Georg Baselitz. The German painter had dismissed female painters, saying they were not as good as their male counterparts.

Cooper subsequently challenged him on it, and told of how he held his head in his hands and reeled off a list of women artists he admired. “Maybe he had been forced to revaluate,” she says.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago