The art sale gender pay gap

A Georgia O’Keeffe painting just sold for over $44 million, setting a new record for a painting by a woman; the previous record was for a Joan Mitchell painting auctioned for $11.9 million.  A Francis Bacon once auctioned for $142.4 million, and so:

Despite the huge O’Keeffe sale, the cavern between the men’s and women’s records remains yawning. The gender pay gap is something like 84 cents to the dollar. The art sale “record gap” is now about 31 cents to the dollar. Before Thursday, it was 8 cents.

That is by Oliver Roeder, the full article is here.


I'm much more concerned that the gap between paintings that look like things and paintings that don't look like anything is way too small.

If you don't get Pollock or Rothko or Richter, you're a barbarian. Your opinions don't count. You have no soul. Stick to accounting or insurance or whatever it is that you do.

A couple of women painters were among the highest paid portrait artists of the 18th-19th Centuries: Louise Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun and Angelica Kaufman. It didn't hurt that they were lookers, too.

Vigee-Lebrun was Marie Antoinette's court painter, then the French Revolution sent her on a long exile through the capitals of Europe. She met everybody who was anybody over a long life. Paul Johnson finds her memoirs highly insightful about the changes between the society of the ancien regime and the early modern world.

Well of course she looks good in a self-portrait.

Frida Kahlo didnt.

Good article. There's also a color barrier in art, as negro artist paintings sell less than Caucasian artist paintings. This is not to be confused with the deceased artist gap, where works by artists that have died sell for more than those alive (that is a supply issue).

Don't give me your "supply and demand" garbage. The dead-living pay gap is due to dead privilege.

There's a shortage of dead people?

Relative to demand, yes.

Quote of the century.

That was excellent.

Maybe the women are just not as good? Let the snarking, threats and mass hysteria (aka Twitter) begin.

What the hell does skill have to do with it?

I blame sexism from the Artistic Community.

Didn't Rose McGowan have something to say on this subject recently?

Silly comparison, the pay gap is based on aggregates, not two observations of extremes.

Yes, to make the comparison apt, compare to pay of the average female artist and average male artist (or highest paid female wage earner to highest paid male wage earner).

So, Tyler, no comment on ART?

Well, this can be explained as a distribution of art production over time, with greater weight (price) being given to older painters. Today, you select a picture from a pool of the past production. Men developed reputations as part of a large pool of painters in the past, whereas women did not develop a reputation in the past, and their pool is smaller.

How many women painters were there relative to men painters during the 1890's. In 1910. In 1930. In the US, Germany, France, China.

I would be interested in the gap today between men and women painters who are still painting.

A less contrived explanation would be that men predominate among artists for the same reason they prefer reading maps to receiving recipe like delivered orally, or to remark on the preference of women for craft projects which do not make use of spatial ability.

Even though your name is Art, I think your statement that "men predominate among artists" should be a provable point based on TODAYs market and the number of men and women artists. So, what evidence do you offer for your hypothesis 1) that men predominate in art today and 2) that women predominate in craft projects that do not make use of spacial ability.

So, what evidence do you offer for your hypothesis 1) that men predominate in art today and 2) that women predominate in craft projects that do not make use of spacial ability.

Yeah, I see guys knitting in waiting rooms all the time. And my uncle made handsome door wreaths. And when my better half recently stopped off at the yarn shop on the way to a different errant.

...she was the only dame in the store.


So what you are saying is that men are less manually dexterous.


Maybe you are though, based on your example.

No, I am saying women predominate in domestic craft production. You're playing asinine games.


Consider this: 50% of todays art undergrads are women and 60% of art graduate students are women.

I'll give you the source after you respond to my question for reasons that will be apparent after your answer.

And 99% of them suck and their art will never amount to anything more than their aunt's bathroom decoration.

Its one thing for you to have different opinions. It is quite another for you to be intentionally obtuse. I give you credit for more intelligence than you give yourself. It makes me feel so low.


What does it mean if I am obtuse to you but not to others.

You're obtuse to others as well.

1. Women predominate in higher education generally, especially in non-quantitative disciplines. If half the art students are female, that's less than you'd expect.

2. I spent longer than I care to admit employed by an academic institution that had a studio art program, one with dedicated facilities in which at least 40% of the small studio faculty were female. Guess what? Over a two-digit quantum of student cohorts, I never saw one artifact worth taking a second look at on display at the student galleries the faculty maintained. No handsomely done watercolors or pencil drawings of the sort that were occasionally produced in my high school studio class, no block prints, no portraitis, no still life, no landscapes, nada. They'd put these metallic sculptures out on the quad and the frat brothers would offer an honest assessment of quality by throwing them in a nearby lake. The quality of instruction was plain awful. These the art students you had in mind?

In undergrad, I took a couple fine arts classes. Although I noticed a lot of women in those classes, when I went to the studio area after regular hours, about 80% of the people there were male. Very few of the most dedicated students were female.

The ladies were their for their MRS degree.

Maybe, but I wouldn't advise women to frequent art departments if that's their goal.

Does anyone else find gender-driven issues (and racial and ageist and cultural issues in general) to be utterly over-blown and purposelessly-demoralizing to society in general - i suppose its news fodder to some? Are there people out there that still believe that creating false 'groupings' of individuals with very little in common (the distance in quantifiable personality values between any two random women is almost always greater than the difference in personality values between the average man and average women) has some society-changing worth (public humiliation as their only weapon, perhaps)? Are there women out there that self-identify themselves as women first and human beings second -or- even men first and human beings second? Why not the pay or rights deficiencies in hair colour or height or weight? Why this endless distraction? I get it - that there a significant misogynist groups out there (damn, another group) perhaps due to large-cultural or local-cultural (family/ community) conditioning inherently seeking to show preference (which may or may not be a type of discrimination) or intentional disfavor. Perhaps that's a crime that should be considered (and limited) to litigation and legislation - keep it there. Though there also seems to be a 'movement' to provide a version of society that is based on the average distribution of gender, race, etc., which should be reflected in all professions, groupings, etc. This of course is a different issue - of which I am somewhat sympathetic. But there seems to be an overlap where people who want to seek to help those with misogynist values to 'see the light' and those who want to create a type of society demographic - which of course is coupled with a media system that couldn't care less about either except its ability to galvanize and polarize. Ho-hum, why is drama seen as a worthwhile life pursuit. Better a poor life with drama than a boring good life, i suppose.

+1 If women were excluded from the Academies in 1890, or their art was not sold or promoted to make them popular at that time, and the value of art is in part dependent on age, I would expect a gap as well.

How many female Rembrandt's were there at the time of Rembrandt.

Georgia O'Keeffe was at the mid-point of her career ca. 1945. It's not as if these galleries are only trading in 16th c. inventory.

Art, The high numbers and the gap are based on a distribution of prices over time.

There is a HUGE bias in favour of dead artists, whose paintings are often much more expensive than those by living painters. I call it deathism. It is appaling that no government agency pays any attention.

There is a governmental agency, but it is staffed entirely by dead people who some difficulty communicating. Ouija boards are very slow.

It's common knowledge among art aficionados that many of the great masters spent the bulk of their time crawling pubs while their significant others toiled away at home creating the timeless wonders that now sell for millions with hubby's signature in the corner. That's the true tragedy of gender discrimination. Gabriel Metsu gets the credit for paintings that may have been done by his wife, Jacomijntje Garniers.

Don't you think this is simply because there is more art that has been produced in the past by men? Assuming both genders have equal artistic skill if you have 50 male made paintings and 3 female made paintings to choose from at an auction a man painting is probably going to fetch the highest price.

When the amount of paintings by female artists equals the number by male artists then maybe we'll have a better idea of a gender gap.

Yes. One should be worried about this gap.
There is also a gap between the incomes made by high IQ people and those made by morons. Very very worrying.
And yeah. There exists a similarly huge gap between the amounts earned by African Americans and Asian Americans in the athletic circuit.
And yes. One should be just as worried about the huge chasm between the performances of Indian Americans and African Americans in Spelling bee contests.

Interesting to see how many men get upset about reporting of such facts. Ever asked yourself why that is, and if this is your case, why you get more upset about this than if someone says something similar about another group than your own?

Everyone who is grumbling about ugly, unskilled modern art should make a habit of skimming the New Criterion's art reviews, by James Panero, Mario Naves, Karen Wilkin among others. They mount a strong defense of the traditionally-minded artists who are virtually ignored by the fashionable "art world."

Jed Perl at the New Republic is also often very skeptical of current avant-gardisms.

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