When I first heard that Charles Saatchi was hosting an all-women show called Champagne Life to mark the gallery's thirtieth anniversary I was intrigued, then I thought about it and was disappointed.
In 2016 is it really a selling point to have an all-women art show?
Please, do not get me wrong, part of me was so desperate to see the show, as it featured some artists that I've always wanted to see in the flesh. The other part of me was against the whole idea. I want to support women artists. I am a woman artist (and that feels so weird to type). I'm against supporting the idea that a woman artist is anything less than a male artist, and the tagline to Champagne Life being "first all-female art show" seems outdated.
When the Guerrilla Girls asked if women [artists] had to be naked to be in the met, I don't think they meant like this.
From what I've read about Champagne Life (because money and moving made the decision to not see it for me) there seems little to tie the works to each other beyond that they have been made by women. Women and women artists are not that two dimensional that you can exhibit us in the same space and expect a flow, but those curating exhibitions should know this.
There are many problems in the art world, the whole industry has a very low glass ceiling for women artists. In 2012, 27.5% of the artists shown at the Frieze Art Fair were female. Cady Noland sells for $9.8 million, Jeff Koons sells for $58.4 million. In 2014 80% of the solo exhibitions at LACMA were male. The more you investigate the disparity between men and women in the art world, the more shocking, and worrying it becomes.
The show has been reviewed by men, and women, with similar view points being expressed. The show is patronising, the all-women is a selling point to make Saatchi look like a better person. That many art shows don't come with the tag line of "all-male" or "80% male-artists". That Champagne Life is sponsored by a maker of Champagne and sadly, it's not as ironic as they might like you to think.
In turning over the Saatchi gallery to 14 women artists for it's thirtieth celebrations, it feels like someone who bought the bouncy castle to the birthday party. It's a novelty. You can enjoy and discuss how great it is, but eventually it's going to get taken down, and nothing has really changed.
The art world has moved on, but it still has further to go. An Paenhuysen put it brilliantly when she wrote for sleek:
Can an all-female show really put women artists in their righteous place in art history? Hardly; instead it can only repeat the convention, despite the best intentions.
It has taken Saatchi thirty years to put on an all women show, and I can't help but think if he'd have done this many years ago there may have been more of a positive response. Outside of the art world people know that women are under-represented, that age-old gender roles can be damaging, that there is still a real need for feminism. The world knows that things have to change, despite how far we've come.
It's embarrassing to be part of a niche that still doesn't know how to represent women and the fantastic work they do. It's embarrassing that critics don't know how to talk about a womans art without talking about her.
It's embarrassing that apart from showing and listening to more woman artists I can't think of a better way to make the art world more inclusive.
Women artists are not a token. There are more of us than you think, and we can change things.