Guerrilla Girls – ‘You Have to Question What You See’ | Artist Interview | TateShots

Guerrilla Girls – ‘You Have to Question What You See’ | Artist Interview | TateShots

Women artists It’s difficult to realise that half a century ago have never gotten the serious attention and certainly not the serious money that
male artists do. a woman was not even a person. It took quite a long struggle by
some very determined women to change this. Hundreds of years ago in Europe,
kings and queens told us what art was and we’re stuck with that. Now that the
world aspires to democracy, why should billionaires and oligarchs define what
our visual culture is? Isn’t that backward? What’s very good about our image, is that
when you look at our masks, you think of what we stand for, and we stand for the
conscience of the art world. And we feel that there there is under-representation
of women and minorities. In 1984 the Museum of Modern Art had a big
exhibition. Out of close to 200 artists in the show, there were only 17 women and
even fewer artists of colour. And it occurred to some of us that the art
world was basically a white male place and no one asked why? And they’d say ‘well, if there are no women, there are no artists of colour it just means they’re not making
work that’s good enough’, and we knew that was a tired excuse. There was a
protest, you know placards and chanting in a picket line. The only thing that we
accomplished was to anger visitors to the museum. We noticed it didn’t work. Everyone was
willing to excuse the art world, so we decided that day that we had to figure
out a way to make people care. There was discrimination right in front of
people’s noses but they didn’t see it. The thing is when you tell people the
system is unfair they don’t really believe you, but when you show them the
numbers there’s nothing they can say to counteract that. We started to name names
in the art world. Lists of galleries and museums that didn’t show women and
critics that didn’t write about women. We would go after every cross section of the art world. Everyone was passing the buck to someone
else. The white male artist said ‘I can’t tell my gallery what to show’ and the
gallery said ‘I can’t show women because their work doesn’t sell’ and then
collectors would say ‘well, I can’t buy women or artists of colour because I
don’t see them.’ We were just angry. If art is a record of culture, and the
art doesn’t look like the culture, and the art is told only through the works
of white males, that’s basically what it is: It’s the history of patriarchy, not
the history of who we are. We figured out this formula that if you make people
laugh, if you put people on the spot and if you use information, you can actually
change people’s minds. And the only thing you can do to a system that oppresses
you is to make fun of it, and we did it by being provocative. The Guerrilla Girls, who call themselves the conscience of the art world have plastered their
answer all over town. It was a lot of fun, especially when
you’re anonymous and you wear gorilla masks. Everyone can own a poster of ours.
We want to talk in a way that people can digest easily and we want to produce
something that everybody can be part of. I’d be happier to know that we have
posters in millions of college dorm rooms, then hanging over the couch of
some billionaire art collector. We are outsiders. We will always point at what’s
happening at institutions and critique that. A lot of people ask us, you know,
like,’ oh you’re criticising the museum’s but then we can see your work at
institutions’, and actually it makes total sense to us because we love to criticize
an institution right on its own walls. That’s really fun. There’s many ways to
bring about change. Art is not accessible to the masses. We travel all around the
world and our main message is to question what you’re seeing, don’t just
accept what you see at institutions, you have to think about what’s not being
shown, why that thing is being shown, how did it get there? To actually critically
engage with the work and ask the larger questions. What might not be in this
museum? So for example, for our 30th anniversary we revisited, ‘how many
women had one person exhibitions at New York City museums?’ In 1985 it was zero, zero, one, zero, and in 2015 it was one, one, two, one. That’s the progress, which is, you know, a
little depressing. What has changed? So, in 1985, when we said ‘the art world’, there was systemic problems, everyone was like, ‘no, if women and artists of colour were making art that was as good as white men it would
be at these institutions’. No one would say that now. And numbers will always
take a while to catch up, but the fact that thinking has changed is encouraging.
Artists are really at the forefront of the resistance. Artists have to think
politically while they make their art and think of alternative ways to live, and
to do their work and to survive.

Dereck Turner

21 thoughts on “Guerrilla Girls – ‘You Have to Question What You See’ | Artist Interview | TateShots

  1. T. S. says:

    Talent discriminates against and segregates the non-talented. The moma brand wants to represent with the most talented and skillful people. Not hacks. Hacks get used for free publicity, but aren't invited to the party.

  2. James McCormack says:

    I look for good art. Period.

  3. dev0n james says:

    well this is peak optics for feminism

  4. Joshua Taylor Madison says:

    So if you're a male who gets rejected by the gallery system, then that is a super duper slap in the face.

  5. Jacob Rotten says:

    How comes these girls that are "representing" women of color are predominately white?

  6. Alianger says:

    Any tribute to harambe has my support.

  7. mins Heo says:

    Gooood Art

  8. Sankofa NYC says:

    Keep it up ladies…. Its clearly needed…

  9. janicew9 says:

    Crazy how all the comments are just men making excuses and exhibiting their blindness to the problem. As always, thanks Tate ✌🏽

  10. Elaine Foster-Gandey says:

    Fantastic work Guerrilla Girls 🙂

  11. Guy Tetreault says:

    After less than 1 minute of watching this… My question was:
    Why should I look at something so unkindly horrible?


    I stopped watching

  12. K May says:

    Love this video, and love the Guerrilla Girls! Their message is so important. I'm running a lecture about masks this week, and will definitely show my students this video!

  13. ricv64 says:

    I've always agreed with their message. The numbers don't lie but I never cared about the anonymity. I suspect some members have had decent careers

  14. Krishnanunni Gireesh says:


  15. Sorasit Suprapoch says:

    Just why?

  16. Yellow White says:


  17. Poo-Nah Nay says:

    "the history of patriarchy" What a negative perspective that absolutely berates the success of female artists in the past—you know, the ones who became famous for their art and talent. 

    Wants to change the world by anonymously wearing a Gorilla mask. The stupidity is astounding, actually beyond words. These idiots might want to look into cognitive bias.

    FUCK. OFF.

  18. Frank Krasicki says:

    Numbers don't lie;

    Guerrilla Girls have an arithmetic problem.

  19. Raul Lopez says:

    This wasn’t art and they weren’t artists, they were just pushing an agenda or movement which can be considered propaganda. 🥰

  20. bea haxby says:

    0:22 oh right because people are still making art like that today…? Piss off…where is the Michelangelo or Bernini today? No one today holds a candle to those guys

  21. Lala Drona says:

    Thanks Tate! I love your content. If you want to see how women's point of view is presented through the "female gaze" in painting today, check this out

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