The Challenges Female Artists Face Mid-Career


by: Anna Louie Sussman

The article, female artists become invalid in their 40’s was published on Artsy, a website dedicated to the discussion of art and the surrounding community. This article focuses on the experiences of female artists as they transition into their mid-career with a focus on the challenges and long-held stereotypes facing women artists.

London-based collector Valeria Nepoleone noticed a strange phenomenon when building her collection of women made art. Piece by an artist with a long, storied careers were fetching the same if not lower prices of their fresh out of grad school equivalents. The article points out several factors as the cause including; deeply ingrained stereotypes of the “wild child,” work that is less quickly received by the male-dominated art market, and women’s perceived less likely ability to advocate for themselves. Kathleen Gilrain, executive director of the Brooklyn exhibition space Smack Mellon, also notes that the industry has “a serious ageism problem,” however later in the article it is mentioned that it affects men to a far lesser extent.

Deeply ingrained stereotypes such as that of the “Wild Child” negatively impact mid-career artists as their lifestyle rarely conforms to that image. When women do not conform to the idealized image made by male collectors, they fall out of favor, even considering the common thought that an artist’s work gets better with age. Laurie Simmons muses that “people are more comfortable after a certain age with the profile of the woman artist as a crazy old lady.” noting that people are more comfortable with devaluing work as women age.

Another essential hurdle that women artists face is tailoring their piece to the dominant male art collecting world. Bernstein faced this when she challenged male sexuality with her series of “Screw Drawings.” Many institutions refused to exhibit her work, using language t reserved for pornographic pieces, even though many famous works are that of nude women. This article also highlights the fact that there is a need for more females in the art collecting world as it creates more gate openers to challenge the gatekeepers that keep women out. Nina Katchadourian contributes her career success to Catherine Clark, a San Francisco art dealer.

One of the most significant challenges faced by the female in any career is that of parenthood. In many countries, women do a disproportionate amount of childcare; because of this, women have less time to work and do self-promotion. Balancing work-life and childcare is something that most men will never have to experience and can be a potential benefit to them. It is not until post menopause that the celebration of women begins to again.

I found this article to be important as it highlights that sexism and ageism are pervasive in all areas, even ones that claim to be open-minded. It also highlights that women are regularly blamed for their failures despite there being outside forces working against them

Originally Published By: Artsy