It’s not difficult to see a gender imbalance in contemporary art. The record auction sale for a living female artist is $7.1m; for a male artist its $58.4m. In 32 years, only seven women have been awarded the Turner Prize, while 83 per cent of the artists in the Tate Modern’s collection are men. Despite this, significantly more art students are female than male.
To mark its 30th anniversary, the Saatchi Gallery wants to address this inequality. Its new show, Champagne Life, is dedicated to female artists. Although named for a piece by the New York-based Julia Watchel, it lacks a thematic thread. Instead, the gallery has chosen an array of 14 artists whose work it wishes to champion.
Few pieces are directly concerned with gender. Seung Ah Paik’s Autolandscape (2012-2013), a series of enormous draped canvases that depict the artist’s flesh, is more interested in Paik’s relationship with her own body than statements about feminine forms. The galleries find room for works as diverse as Jelena Balujics’ scrupulously detailed portraits of elderly faces and Alice Anderson’s 181 Kilometres (2015), a copper ball spun by Anderson during a process of continual walking. Potential aesthetic parallels – Stephanie Quayle, Mia Feuer and Sohelia Sokhanvari are represented by sculptures shaped like two cows, a donkey and a horse respectively – vary in their materials, contexts and intentions.
Interviewed in The Guardian, the Saatchi’s Chief Executive Nigel Hurst was circumspect about the gender imbalance in contemporary art. “Though women artists are far better represented in contemporary art now, in terms of the women artists that are having their work exhibited and shown, there remains a glass ceiling that needs to be addressed.” Champagne Life should represent a positive step in the process.
The exhibition is part of a growing trend to readdress unequal representation in art. Miami’s Rubell Family Collection's current No Man’s Land gathers work from 100 female artists, while the Art Institute of Chicago’s upcoming Nothing Personal collects art from Zoe Leonard, Cindy Sherman and Lorna Simpson.