A couple of years ago I chided Art News magazine for a story headlined “Ten Tough Women Artists Who Stand Up to the Bad Boys. “ I said that a story about overlooked women artists pretty much ended in the ‘60s when painters like Helen Frankenthaler were able to say, “Looking at my paintings as if they were painted by a woman is superficial, a side issue.”
But a report in this month’s Art News about painter George Baselitz dissing women artists made the issue central again. So this is me backpedaling my sideswipe at Art News. Sexism lives.
Talking to the British daily newspaper The Guardian, Baselitz said this:
“The market doesn’t lie. Even though the painting classes in art academies are more than 90% made up by women, it’s a fact that very few of them succeed. It’s nothing to do with education, or chances, or male gallery owners. It’s to do with something else and it’s not my job to answer why it’s so. It doesn’t just apply to painting, either, but also music.”
Baselitz scoffed at women artists in the same way in 2013 when the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel quoted him saying: “Women don’t paint very well… (They) simply don’t pass the market test, the value test.”
He’s wrong about the market value of women’s art. As Art News rightly points out, while a Baselitz painting sold for $2 mil, a painting by the Japanese female artist Yayoi Kusama sold for $7.1 million.
But is that really the point? Does the art market define quality? Are, say, Damien Hirst’s paintings of 1,365 machine-like dots that sold for as much as $3.4 million a sign of merit?
Of course not.
So what’s up with this guy? What drives this man to keep sneering at women artists? Even if he were right, why go on about it?
Usually when someone goes out of his way to put another down, it’s to boost a weak ego. Does Baselitz need such a boost? In 2008, the Royal Academy called him one of the greatest living artists. And he’s had a string of awards like that for decades.
Can it be that he’s such a glutton for praise that he’s still smarting over West Germany’s seizure of his exhibited 1963 painting “The Big Night Down The Drain” (Die große Nacht im Eimer) on charges of immorality?
The painting shows a boy with an enormous erection purportedly masturbating. Baselitz said he pictured this “as an aggressive act or shock” to remind Germans of their part in WWII.
But chagrin over the censorship can’t be the reason. The incident is said to have boosted his career and made him famous.
Maybe that’s it. Shocking the public is Baselitz’s way of getting attention. This would explain why he often paints his images upside down. Likely he derides women because he knows how politically incorrect that is and how much noise he’ll make doing it.
You got your way, George. Your women-bashing made the news the world over. I imagine hearing you laughing some hollow, mirthless laugh.