This blog series isn’t just about women who produce art—it’s also about the women who support and promote it. Like most industries, gender inequality is rife in the art world, but I thought it only fair to find out who is representing us and if there looks to be a shift towards more female directors of galleries and museums. Some of them are managing to generate women-only exhibitions, such as Diane Lee’s at the Imperial War Museum in London, which currently has a “Women War Artists” show that is really inspirational.
I know it’s a bit depressing looking at a list like this—and I’m hoping many of you will be able to fill in the gaps, as there is no coherent national or global record of museum and gallery directors that I know of other than the British and Canadian ones I’ve used below—but basically I wanted to show how worrying it is that we can condense women’s representation in this field into a few paragraphs. (Of course, I live in the UK so the bulk of my knowledge and research is on Western institutions in English-speaking countries, so again, please help fill in the gaps if you have information on galleries in other countries) I found many institutions that I hoped were coordinated by females or had some kind of female influence, but time and time again I would discover that a man was running the show. It became very frustrating and, to be honest, I find it boring that the directorship seems to be so homogenous, with many of the other executives and board members also being male. After all, there is nothing to say that this job needs to have male influence or that more men visit galleries than women. As far as I know, visitors are much more likely to be disproportionately represented by class than gender; official studies have shown that the less disposable income you have, the less likely you are to visit a museum or gallery, except if it’s very close to where you live (in which case, the convenience factor takes over).
My hope with this list is that you get a few ideas about which institutions you should support, if you want to consciously support female directors. This is just one way of addressing feminist issues in the art world—by engaging with places that are led by women, you are voting with your eyes and your feet. Equally, by visiting a male-run gallery and writing in the “Comments” slip that you’d like to see more women on the board, you’re making your opinions known; in fact, the Guerrilla Girls actively encourage you to do so. If we all went into one art venue and called for more of a gender balance on its executive panel, or more female artists on the walls, we’d really get them thinking. So seek out women directors and see what they’re up to—let them know you’d like them to stay on top.
A Condensed Guide to Prominent Directors of Mainstream Museums and Galleries in North America, Europe, and Australia
- Catherine M. Pears - Alexandria Museum of Art (Louisiana)
- Ellen Futter - American Museum of Natural History (New York)
- Sarah J. Bloomfield - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington D.C)
- Elizabeth Ann MacGregor - Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney)
- Betty Churcher - Art Gallery of Western Australia (1987-1990) and National Gallery of Australia (1990-1997)
- Margot Schindler - Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art (Vienna)
- If you want to read more about European women leading the way in arts and science then the Wien International website has an entire series focusing on the topic.
- Janet Carding - Royal Ontario Museum (Ontario)
- Kathleen Bartels - Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver)
- Nathalie Bondil - Montreal Museum of Fine Art (Montreal)
- If you want to learn more about the directors of Canadian museums and galleries then check out the Canadian Art Museum Directors’ Association.
- Snježana Pintarić - Museum of Contemporary Art (Zagreb)
- Maria Anna Potocka - Museum of Contemporary Art (Krakow)
- Ann Goldstein - Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam)
- Alexandra Kusa - Slovak National Gallery (Bratislava)
I’m aware that this list is incomplete—I’d love to hear your suggestions for other women who are leading the way in art directorship!
Here’s hoping that lists like mine will be redundant in the future, and that we won’t have to think of women on art boards and in the Director’s Office as an endangered species.