Guerrilla Girls, the wonderfully notorious, and anonymous, collective of feminist masked avengers are currently celebrating three decades of subversive antics at the Abrons Arts Center. Their exhibition, “Guerrilla Girls: Not Ready to Make Nice, 30 Years and Still Counting,” runs through May 17th. It features a treasure trove of classic posters, stickers and billboards from 1985 to the present, along with videos of past projects. Also on display is an amazing collection of correspondence from people writing to support them, or often, to disagree and dispute their statements over the years.
As part of their celebration, the Guerrilla Girls are also taking to the streets for some stealth actions and sticker giveaways. They projected some strong sentiments onto the new Whitney Museum and some buildings in Chelsea (via the artist The Illuminator) this past weekend.
I spoke with two of the original gorilla-masked founders, “Frida Kahlo” and “Kathe Kallowitz,” about what’s changed for women artists over the past three decades:
“Things haven’t changed enough,” Kathe said. “Billionaires and the super rich are controlling the art world…so we’ve been doing campaigns about that…There’s always more to do, which is why we’re still doing it.”
Part of their current sticker campaign focuses on how little the statistics have changed since 1985. One sticker compares how many women had one-person exhibitions at major NYC museums in 1984 (one), and in 2014 (five).
But awareness around the subject has definitely increased. “People believe what we’re talking about now,” said Frida. “The critique of the art world is much deeper and more complicated now and more people know about it.”
However, “the art world has really changed,” she said, “it’s become this instrument of investment… and while maybe it’s better for women and artists of color in the writing of history and in the thinking of curators, if you look at the money in the art world it all still goes to the white male.”
They point out that the price per dollar going to sales of work by women vs. men is something like ten cents on the dollar.
Somewhat ironically, over the last 15 years or so, museums have come calling. A collection of their posters was up at the Tate for almost seven years — which they say turned out to be a great way to reach a larger audience. But they rarely, if ever, show work in galleries.
“We really exist in a different kind of market structure from the rest of the art world,” said Frieda, “People who like us are artists and curators (and students). It ‘s not the collectors and trustees of museums or the money part of the art world, we’re kind of championed by all the people to whom art is crucial to how they behave and think in the world, so I don’t think we’re universally loved, at all.”
Exhibition walk-throughs at Abrons with the Guerrilla Girls are scheduled for May 3, 10, and 17 at 3 p.m. The celebration culminates in a blowout birthday party on Friday, May 15, from 8–10 p.m., with music, jungle DJs and cake. Check for updates here.