While the widespread notion that many of New York’s blue-chip galleries largely represents white male artists, a study by CUNY’s Guttman College late last year indicates it may not just be popular belief.
A pool of 1,300 artists shown by the US city’s top 45 galleries indicated that 80.5 percent are white, which they compared to the US population census, which lists the white population making up a segment of 64 per cent. Other figures derived from the study showed 8.8 per cent of represented artists are black, despite being 16 per cent of the overall population, with Latinos, who also constitute 16 per cent of the US population, make up a mere 1.2 per cent of galleries.
The study also indicated that males made up 68 per cent of the represented artists, and nearly one fifth of all US artists in New York galleries graduated from Yale, 10 per cent more than graduates from Columbia University and California Institute of the Arts, the next in line.
However, while compelling and problematic, the study must be taken with a grain of salt: the researchers admit that the data is not reflective of how the artists themselves self-identify, rather, compiled based on the researchers’ perceptions. The method consisted of looking at publications to ascertain the gender and race of each artist.
The professor who initiated the study, James Case-Leal, did so in order to “give the students tools for deeper experiences in these kinds of art spaces, I had to be aware that I was also teaching cultural hierarchies. Which is particularly problematic because many of my students represent the demographics categorically absent from the European and American dominated collections we were looking at,” he said to artnet News. “Quantifiable data takes the guesswork out of a critique and presents it in public. I do not think this information needs to be read as accusatory. It is intended to be an honest assessment.”
Ultimately, “Our results counter the ‘unregulated market does best’ argument used to justify defunding public art supports. The data reveals a concrete need for expanded government funding and/or market regulation,” Case-Leal said in closing.