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Celebrating women artists with the National Museum of Women in the Arts for Women's History Month 2019.

Friday 8th March 2019 is International Women’s Day. This global event celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The theme for this year’s campaign is #BalanceforBetter – because a gender-balanced world, including in government, the workplace, and media coverage, is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

Corresponding with this is Women’s History Month. From the 1st to the 31st of March, the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society will be highlighted both within institutions and online. For the past three years, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (based in Washington, D.C.) has used the month to ask, “can you name five women artists?”.

This movement has drawn attention to the fact that women have not been treated equally in the art sphere, and today remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries and auction houses worldwide. For example:

  • A recent data analysis of 18 major U.S. art museums found that their collections are 87% male and 85% white
  • In 2017, the annual Freelands Foundation report found that at London’s major arts institutions only 22% of solo shows were by women artists
  • Only 13.7% of living artists represented by galleries in Europe and North America are women
  • The top three museums in the world, the British Museum (est. 1753), the Louvre (est. 1793) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (est. 1870) have never had female directors
  • The most expensive work sold by a woman artist at auction, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1, sold in 2014 for $44.4 million – over four hundred million dollars less than the auction record for a male artist: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold in 2017 for $450.3 million
  • Only 26% of the winners of the Turner Prize, one of the most well-known visual arts awards, have been women
  • Only 27 women (out of 318 artists) are represented in the 9th addition of H.W. Janson’s survey Basic History of Western Art – up from zero in the 1980s

For 2019, the National Museum of Women in the Arts are moving their campaign from awareness to action – encouraging other institutions to pledge to help them promote gender equality in the arts. Here at the Royal Cornwall Museum, we have been inspired to write a series of blog posts that will bring to light five women artists represented in our own collections. We will also create a physical trail to emphasise their work within the museum.

Our first artist is Esther M. Moore (1857-1934), who worked as a colliery agent before becoming a sculptor in 1891. A blog about her will be posted later today, with a new addition to the series following on each Friday in March.

Follow the #5WomenArtists campaign on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Join the conversation by using the hashtags #5WomenArtists#IWD2019#BalanceforBetter and #WomensHistoryMonth.

You can also tag @Cornwall_Museum, @WomenInTheArts and @womensday.

Further Reading:

National Museum of Women in the Arts

International Women’s Day


Embuscado, R. (2016). Top 10 Most Expensive Women Artists at Auction 2016. [Online]. [Accessed: Wednesday 27th February 2019].…

Halperin, J. (2017). The 4 Glass Ceilings: How Women Artists Get Stiffed at Every Stage of Their Careers. [Online]. [Accessed: Wednesday 27th February 2019].…

International Women’s Day. (2019). International Women’s Day 2019. [Online]. [Accessed: Wednesday 27th February 2019].

National Museum of Women in the Arts. (2019). Get the Facts. [Online]. [Accessed: Wednesday 27th February 2019].…

Pogrebin, R. Reyburn, S. (2017). Leonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million, Shattering Auction Highs. [Online]. [Accessed: Wednesday 27th February 2019].…

Steedman, M. (2017). Represetation of Female Artists in Britain in 2017. London: Freelands Foundation. Available online.

Topaz, C M. Klingenberg, B. Turek, D. Heggeseth, B. Harris, P E. Blackwood, J C. Chavoya, C O. Nelson, S. Murphy, K M. (2019). Diversity of Artists in Major U.S. Museums. San Francisco: Public Library of Science. Available online.

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