It’s no secret that women are under-represented in the art world—in fact, of more than 800,000 exhibitions that were staged in the public and commercial sectors in 2018, two-thirds were by men. Now, as Stephanie Convery reports for the Guardian, an art consultant in Australia is trying to correct that imbalance with a new commercial gallery devoted entirely to contemporary art by women.
Finkelstein Gallery, which opens August 29 in Melbourne, will represent ten artists, the bulk of which are Australian—including Cigdem Aydemir, Kate Baker, Monika Behrens, Coady, Deborah Kelly, Louise Paramor, Lisa Roet and Kate Rohde. The gallery will also feature Sonal Kantaria from the UK, and Kim Lieberman from South Africa. According to Linda Morris of the Sydney Morning Herald, the gallery is currently the only commercial space in Australia dedicated to female artists; a previous venture, Australian Girls Own Gallery in Canberra, shuttered in 1998.
“[S]omebody starting up a new gallery with such a bold vision—you just have to get on board,” Kelly, whose vibrant collages have been acquired by such prestigious institutions as the Wellcome Trust, tells Morris. “It was too exciting a prospect to resist.''
The new gallery was founded by Lisa Fehily, who has been active as an art collector and consultant for the past 15 years. She has seen firsthand how women in the field are “often overlooked, not put forward for important exhibitions,” as she tells Convery. Indeed, the 2014 “Countess Report,” which looked women’s representation in Australia’s art institutions, found that women make up just 34 percent of all artists exhibited in state museums, and 40 percent of artists in commercial galleries.
This is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to Australia. In establishing the Finkelstein Gallery, Fehily was inspired by other institutions’ efforts to bolster the profiles of female artists. The Baltimore Museum of Art, for instance, recently announced that it would dedicate all of its 2020 programming to female-identifying artists. Since 2016, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington has been challenging social media users to name five women artists—likely a struggle for many, which in turn highlights the lopsided representation of women in the art world. Australia’s National Gallery built on that campaign with its #KnowMyName initiative, and promised to unveil a major exhibition of women’s artwork in 2020.
“I feel that it’s a bit of a worldwide movement from a society perspective,” Fehily tells Convery. “There’s a lot of work to be done for female artists.”
Like other commercial galleries, the Finkelstein will help open up financial and publicity opportunities for its artists; as the Countess Report pointed out, “[c]ommercial galleries’ artists make up the majority of artists exhibited in state museums and biennales and reviewed in art media.” According to Morris of the Herald, commercial spaces also play an important role in establishing price points, which tend to be lower for women’s art—something that Fehily hopes to correct.
She tells Convery that she is not opposed to the prospect of working with male artists in the future, but for now, she believes it is important to carve out a space for women in a sector that has long marginalized them. “[Women] need more opportunities in our industry,” Fehily says simply. “We’ve been overlooked.”