aNewDomain — I have several close friends who are artists. They astound me with their talents. I’ll never be able to represent the things in my head in visual terms the way they can. The way they are able to portray feelings in paint is just stunning. But they report having a terrible time breaking in to the art markets in any meaningful way.
But what if all they had to do was to be male? Or paint naked women?
As you’ll see, these aren’t at all crazy questions.
Have you looked at Wikipedia’s listing of the 67 most expensive pieces of art ever sold? All 67 of them are by male artists. And most of the ones that have human subjects use female subjects, half-naked or naked women as subjects.
Here’s Les Femmes d’Alger (The Women of Algiers) by Pablo Picasso, at right. Les Femmes is actually a series of 15 paintings that Picasso completed in 1955. Victor and Sally Ganz from Paris’ Galerie Louise Leiris bought the series for an estimated $212,500 million in 1956, making it the fourth most expensive painting ever sold.
And that’s Woman III, below. It is one of a series of six paintings by Willem de Kooning. Completed in 1953, David Geffen in 2006 sold it to billionaire Steven A. Cohen for about $137.5 million. The list has it as the sixth priciest painting ever sold.
Toward the bottom of the list is Nude Sitting on a Divan (The Beautiful Roman Woman), one of several nudes that Amedeo Modigliani painted in 1917. It sold privately in New York in 2010 for nearly $69 million.
At the Sotheby’s auction, a historian noted the scandalous reception the painting below and six other Modigliani nudes in the series met. Said the 1917 catalogue: “The present work may have been among these pictures…. the models’ permissiveness and the artist’s accessibility to them implied that these oils were post coital-renderings, the women still flush and basking in the afterglow.”
And here is Le Rêve (The Dream), a 1932 Pablo Picasso oil painting that went for about $159 million in 2013. It was sold by Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn in a deal that made it the eighth most expensive painting on Wikipedia’s list of the 67 most expensive paintings ever. Said to portray Picasso’s young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, note the erect male penis in the upper half of the models face. Just saying …
All 67 paintings in Wikipedia’s list of the most expensive paintings don’t portray naked women, of course. And not all feature women as subjects, though most do.
But you won’t find a single woman painter on the list.
For instance, the cheapest painting on the list, a real bargain for Getty at about $65 million dollars, is Edouard Manet’s Le Printemps (Spring), shown below. She is one of a handful of fully clothed women on the list.
And you have to drop all the way down to $44m before you find your first woman artist, and that would be way, way off this list. That piece of top-priced artwork, painted by Georgia O’Keefe, is Jimson Weed/White Flower #1, shown below.
Where is this most expensive painting by a female artist? Well, a Walmart heiress put it on display — not in Paris, New York or Qatar, where the rest of the top-selling paintings seem to be. But you still could have seen it — in Arkansas.
Eleanor Bader notes that fewer than eight percent of the artists represented in the Museum of Modern Art are female. Meanwhile, only three percent of the artists at New York’s Metropolitan Museum were female.
Not surprisingly, the majority of all nudes either sculpted or painted are of women.
Now, as a man, I say women are just nicer to look at than men. Men’s magazines sell products with pictures of nude women, and women’s magazine also sell products with pictures of nude women. Nobody wants to see pictures of nude men. Right?
On the other hand, enough people went to see “Magic Mike” that a sequel is on its way — next Wednesday.
Could the reason for 83 percent of the New York Metropolitan Museum’s nudes being female have anything to do with it being run predominately by men? And who collects art? Rich people, right? And who is rich enough to collect art?
Even Forbes admits there is significant income inequality. It isn’t hard to find women on this list. Most of the women on the list, though, are only there due to direct inheritance. A few through media. That’s it.
If rich people are art collectors — and who else could pay millions for a thing to hang on a wall? — and if most rich people are male, then it is male tastes directing the art world. Private collectors are the ones who dictate what museums show and don’t show, especially here in the United States.
Men do back room deals, buy and sell, fix prices and so on.
You know, my last name is Dias. Studies suggest I probably get passed up for job interviews and other opportunities because my name looks Hispanic. Actually, it’s Portuguese and my blood is British, two populations who never spoke Spanish. Regardless, I could maybe be a little more successful if I just changed my last name to Day, which is what Dias means.
I won’t sell myself out that way, though. If I make it, I make it. If not, I gave it a good run, privileges and handicaps and all notwithstanding.
And my artist friends who are women? They won’t sign a man’s name to their work and they won’t take up painting naked ladies just to make a living.
They have vision. A vision, even. And that’s all that matters when the paint jars are open it getting that vision onto canvas.
Integrity needs to come from the buyers’ side. Unfortunately, we’re just looking at one more rippling effect of wealth inequality and gender discrimination.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Image six: Le Printemps (Spring) by Édouard Manet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image seven: Jimson Weed/White Flower #7 via Sothebys.com
Image eight: “Magic Mike” poster via Viggle