YOU CAN BUY A WHOLE COLLECTION OF WORK BY WOMEN ARTISTS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE PAINTING BY A FAMOUS WHITE GUY
WHEN RACISM & SEXISM ARE NO LONGER FASHIONABLE, WHAT WILL YOUR ART COLLECTION BE WORTH?
The glass ceiling is firmly in place in the art world, especially when the work of women artists comes up at auction. When we did this poster in 1989, we wanted to make art collectors nervous about their choices. We also wanted them to know what a bargain the art of women is! Things are a little bit better now—the work of Tina Modotti and Frida Kahlo have broken sales records—but not much.
Asked to design a billboard for the Public Art Fund in New York, we welcomed the chance to do something that would appeal to a general audience. One Sunday morning we conducted a "weenie count" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, comparing the number of nude males to nude females in the artworks on display. The results were very "revealing."
The PAF said our design wasn't clear enough (????) and rejected it. We then rented advertising space on NYC buses and ran it ourselves, until the bus company canceled our lease, saying that the image, based on Ingres' famous Odalisque, was too suggestive and that the figure appeared to have more than a fan in her hand.
The events portrayed in this poster bear direct resemblance to real events at U.S. art museums. It's the only poster we have ever done in Old Testament language. Copies of it have been spotted hanging in museum offices all over the country.
Assigning commemorative months to social issues has become another form of tokenism. This poster is a favorite on university campuses where African Americans and women always get art shows in February and March.
By 1990 "multiculturalism" was a buzzword, accompanied by the perception that things had gotten better for women and artists of color. Artforum asked us to do one of their "Artist's Projects," and in it we announced the conditions for our retirement.