Is It Even Worse In Europe: the Guerrilla Girls at Whitechapel Gallery
The Guerrilla Girls latest exhibition, on display until 7 March 2017, takes up a modest corner room of the Whitechapel Gallery.
A response to their poster in 1989: ‘It’s Even Worse in Europe’, sadly not enough has changed in thirty years. Aiming to unearth the lack of representation for female, non-binary, and non-white artists in Europe’s largest art institutions, in 2016 the Guerrilla Girls ask: ‘Is it even worse in Europe?’
Their weapon of choice? THE QUESTIONNAIRE.
383 surveys to the directors of major European art institutions later, and the white male dominance of the European art world becomes undeniable.
The show’s strength is in the disturbing results of questionnaires–and the power that comes from statistical data proving lack of inclusion, equality, and diversity. Beyond facts and figures, some of the responses highlight the arrogance that can come with positions of privilege and power.
However, the gallery space itself felt like a bit of a missed opportunity. While the results of their surveys were provocative–and no doubt were uncomfortable for many of the institutions to answer given the results–I couldn’t help but feel that filling out a form, and putting those forms on the wall, was a bit underwhelming. But perhaps in this instance, curation and aesthetic are not the most important take-aways. And arguably, the Guerrilla Girls are trying to defy notions of what a gallery space should be, and what it should deliver to its visitors.
More important to leave us with the knowledge that 21 European institutions (out of the approximately 100 who responded) have collections with fewer than 20% women — than to come up with creative ways of curating surveys for a London gallery.
More on the Guerrilla Girls at Whitechapel:
Words by Mica Schlosser.