Spear’s Editor Josh Spero has a piece in the London Evening Standard’s magazine about the price inequality between artists who are men and those who are women. Spero rightly leads with the caveat that price is not an indicator of artistic value, there is something to be said for reviewing the landscape.
Spero quotes several observers who say that you cannot remove art or the art market from the rest of society. If women are paid less for the same jobs as men, how would you expect their works to be valued at par?
Before Spero gets to that sensible conclusion, he does dabble with some other explanations like this:
the gaping divide between male and female prices undeniably exists. The art writer Sarah Thornton, who describes herself as a ‘sociologist of art’, was far less restrained: ‘The only country in the world where the most expensive living artist is a woman is Brazil [where the painter Beatriz Milhazes holds the top spot — her work has sold for up to £1.3m for a painting, at Sotheby’s New York in 2012]. Otherwise, the gender disparities in high price are extreme.’ Thornton, who has written a new book on the art world, 33 Artists in 3 Acts, was willing to assign a clear reason for these differences: ‘I have found that women artists are generally less profit-motivated and less willing to up the scale of their production through delegating to assistants.’
Now we are in dangerous territory (not that Thornton stepped any less willingly into it): stereotyping by gender, the suggestion of innately male or female characteristics, desires, motives, means when it comes to making art.
Portrait of inequality: why women in the art world earn less than men (London Evening Standard)