10 March 2022

Boost for women artists as NGA launches first Gender Equity Action Plan

| Ian Bushnell
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Spherical sculpture in front of the National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery is addressing the significant imbalance between male and female artists. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The National Gallery of Australia has become the nation’s first major public visual arts-collecting institution to adopt a Gender Equity Action Plan, in a drive to make women artists more visible and recognised.

Launched this week as part of International Women’s Day, the Plan has been 18 months in the making and developed in consultation with artists, staff, its council, community, government and the visual arts sector.

It commits the Gallery to:

  • Accelerate gender equity in collections, programming, learning, content, marketing and communications – onsite, online and on tour.
  • Advocate for sector-wide collaboration to achieve gender equity and empowerment of all in the visual arts.
  • Strengthen organisational culture by fostering an equitable, diverse and inclusive professional environment for all staff, stakeholders and audiences while addressing bias, intersectionality and gender awareness.
  • Empower participation ensuring all genders are empowered and have access to, and equal opportunities in, leadership and professional development.
  • Amplify data for equity by employing data to inform strategic and operational gender equity objectives.

Gallery director Nick Mitzevich said the need for collecting institutions to take a more proactive role in redressing the legacy of historical bias had been made increasingly obvious in recent years.

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In early 2019 the Gallery, in collaboration with the Countess Report, researched its collection data and found that only a quarter of the overall Australian art collection and only 33 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection was work by female artists.

This imbalance was also reflected in acquisitions and, of all works acquired by the Gallery between 2014 and 2018, only 27 per cent of works were by female artists.

Assistant director artistic programs Natasha Bullock led the development of the Plan and said the Gallery was now addressing the significant imbalances that exist.

“Ensuring that all people regardless of gender, have the opportunity to reach their full potential is central to the National Gallery’s vision,” she said.

“Across Australia and the world, arts and cultural institutions are facing the lived realities of exclusions, inequities and histories that have shaped their collections, programs and foundational structures.

“We advocate for change and engage with our staff, community and partners about gender equity issues. We recognise that to effect societal change, we need to ensure our own workplace culture, policy and artistic programs demonstrate gender equity, inclusivity and respect.”

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The Gallery said this is demonstrated in the ongoing Know My Name initiative, celebrating women artists.

It said the commitment to gender equity has influenced the way Gallery staff think and talk about art and how they approach building a national collection.

The Gallery has reached gender equity in national collection acquisitions for both number and value in the 2020–2021 financial year. It has engaged more than 480 female artists and programmed more than 13 exhibitions and projects and more than 85 Know My Name events and programs from February 2020 to 2021.

It says the Plan is a commitment and a beginning for the Gallery; a first step to ensuring the art it collects and displays represents the rich and diverse composition of the nation.

To read the full Gender Equity Action Plan visit the NGA website.

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russianafroman6:15 pm 13 Mar 22

The response to this should be to Immediately suspend all public funding for the NGA

I judge artwork by its skill, the emotion or story it tells, the history. Not if the artist has an x or y chromosome. But that’s just me.

When decisions are not made on merit, quality will suffers.

Long history of art not being made on merit first. You had to be male to be accepted.

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