BY: SYDNEY KEEFE
Featured Illustration by: Xulin Wang
One fateful morning on the island of Manhattan, New Yorkers woke up to their borough being wallpapered with Guerrilla art. The Guerilla Girls were formed in response to the MOMA’s exhibit entitled “an international survey of recent painting and sculpture”, which included 165 artists – only 13 of which were women. The exhibit was meant to survey the most important painters and sculptors from 17 countries.
The Guerilla Girls vandalized downtown Manhattan by plastering black and white posters that read, “These Galleries Show No More Than 10% Women Artists or None at All” and listed all the offenders. Other posters showed a list of famous (male) artists that were in these galleries with the title “These artists allow their work to be shown in galleries with less than 10% female artists”. They updated their statistics in 2015, and found that women were still being completely underrepresented in the art world – as artists.
The name and costume comes from the homonyms Gorilla and Guerilla. The group was Guerilla before they went Gorilla, and can no longer remember when or why they donned their fur for the first time. They keep it because of its relation to masculinity and to maintain anonymity.
Credit: Guerrilla Girls
The Guerilla Girls are known for doing “Weinie Counts”, which consist of collecting data of art displayed in museums. This gave them their most eye-catching statistics. For example, only 5 per cent of artists are women, yet 85 per cent of nudes are female.
The Guerrilla Girls currently run activist art workshops for students to learn how to make powerful activist art, much like their own. They originally started with the protest of the MOMA’s exhibit and other modern art museums, but have since broadened their scope to include a general focus on women’s rights, including abortion and racism – issues that women (and men) experience in the art world and beyond.
Most recently with the coming of the Trump administration, the attempts to end planned parenthood and his proposal to shut down the National Endowment of the Arts, the Guerilla Girls have geared up to take on the injustice women, and especially women in the arts, will experience under his presidency. Their most recent protest was at the MOMA. They were protesting the involvement of the MOMA trustee Larry Fink, who is also the economic advisor to the Trump administration. They were also involved in the women’s marches that took place all over America in January.
The Guerrilla Girls also criticized the Oscars in 2002. They depicted what the trophy should look like; A white man. Their poster also included some facts about the awards ceremony: Best Director has never been awarded to a woman, 94 per cent of the writing awards have gone to men, and only 3 per cent of the acting awards have gone to people of color.
They have recently been going after the privatization of the art world in recent years. Called the “Dear Art Collector” campaign, it addresses the problem of billionaires controlling the galleries, and therefore controlling what artists get the money and the exhibitions.
In The Guerrilla Girls’ Updated Art Museum Activity Book, the Guerilla girls re analyzed their original phrase that catapulted them into fame. “In 2011, we did our latest recount. We were sure things had improved, but surprise! Only 4% of the artists in the Modern and Contemporary sections were women, but 76% of the nudes were female. Fewer women artists, more naked males. Is this progress? Guess we can’t put our masks away yet.”