Friday, December 31, 2004

Eliza Strickland: Does Commercialization Cause Discrimination at Museums

A review of the Guerilla Girls new book The Guerrilla Girls' Art Museum Activity Book.

Selective Thinking: Does Commercialization Cause Discrimination at Museums?
by Eliza Strickland
The New Republic

On a recent wet and blustery evening in Manhattan, the usual art-world types crowded into a narrow art bookstore. A flamboyantly garbed woman clutched a Chihuahua wearing a tiny gold lamé jacket, and earnest students in heavy black-rimmed glasses hovered over glossy monographs. Despite the scrum, it wasn't hard to spot the guests of honor: They were the two women dressed in black from the neck down, and covered in fur from the neck up. The Guerrilla Girls, everyone's favorite feminist art activists, had donned their trademark gorilla masks once again for the release party celebrating their latest publication, a little piece of whimsy called The Guerrilla Girls' Art Museum Activity Book. The impetus for the book, say the Guerrilla Girls, is that as museums become more corporate discrimination takes on a subtler form.

The Guerrilla Girls gained fame in the late 1980s for raising awareness of the under-representation of women and artists of color in museums. They irritated institutions and prominent art-world figures while protected by the anonymity of their gorilla masks. The posters they plastered on buildings around Manhattan in the dead of night caught the eyes of pedestrians the next morning, generating a mix of humor and righteous indignation. Their most famous poster demanded: "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" and announced troubling statistics from the Metropolitan's modern art galleries, such as the fact that less than 5 percent of the artists were women. The Guerrilla Girls have kept up their crusade for more diversity in museums, but their new book focuses on a different but related problem: the commercialization of the art world.

The Entire Review Essay

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