For more than 30 years, the Guerilla Girls have been on a mission to redefine the Arts, pushing for increased female inclusion. It is a movement, or crusade, to alter the Art World Order. Donning their trade-mark gorilla masks and adopting names of late female artists, such as Frida Kahlo and Zubeida Agha, they carry out their activities while keeping their anonymity, focusing on the issues rather than their personalities.
So, who are the Guerilla Girls?
They are activists who campaign for women artists to have an equal footing in the male dominated arts, pop industry and in politics. In their push for more galleries to show the works of female artists, it was highlighted in one of their campaigns that some progress has been made. Galleries that formerly featured 10 percent women artists now feature 20 percent. In 2014, New York Museums each gave a single woman a solo show as opposed to 1985, when no woman artist had a solo exhibition.
For the remaining months of this year, until March 2017, the Guerilla Girls decided that ‘‘It’s Even Worse in Europe,‘‘ as they explored diversity in European art organizations through exhibition. This exhibition, taking place at the Whitechapel Gallery, is based on a survey which they conducted. Almost 400 art institutions across 29 countries were questioned on their representation of female, gender non-conforming and black artists. The results were not very encouraging.
This exhibition, which re-enacts the idea behind their 1986 ‘it’s Even Worse in Europe’ poster, features the use of humour, facts, banners, stickers, billboards, projections and other projects to highlight the inequality and other issues surrounding women’s participation in the arts.
Based on their survey, and as shown on some of the colourful posters at the exhibition, the Guerillas point out that the Manchester Art Gallery collection is 80 percent male. Also, the average representation of women artists in Europe is 22 percent.
The Guerillas, have, over the years, attempted to change this present situation and to jolt visitors of their exhibitions into seeing art from a different perspective. Male and white domination means that our definition and appreciation of art has been shaped by a certain category of people. Art galleries and museums curate visual art through their collections. As women are largely underrepresented, their contributions are not projected.
Through their exhibitions, the Guerillas attempt to redefine this space by undertaking public projects and exposing racism, sexism, stereotypes and corruption in arts and politics, while promoting artistic expression of the underrepresented.
One of their most famous posters from 1989 reads, ‘‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? ‘‘In protest of the fact that although 85 percent of the nude works of art shown there were female, only 5 percent of the artists featured there were women. Like that poster, a number of their stickers and posters are being collected by galleries such as Tate Modern, and sought after as artifacts. The group still maintains its mission of reducing discrimination majorly in the world of art and suggesting an alternative and a fresh perspective to the conventional.