Artist

Guerrilla Girls (Grup d'artistes)

The Guerrilla Girls are a group of feminist artists and activists who came together in New York in 1985 to fight against sexism and racism in the art world. In their own words: ‘The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists. We wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture.’ The group was formed in response to the exhibition An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture, held at MoMA, New York, in 1984. Despite women artists in the USA having played a significant role in artistic experimentation during the 1970s, out of the 169 artists included in the exhibition, less than 10% were women. Calling themselves ‘the conscience of the art world’, in 1985 they began their campaign with posters that appealed directly to museums, galleries, curators, critics and artists, whom they held responsible for the exclusion of women and persons of colour from the official circuit of exhibitions and publications. They printed cheap posters, which they pasted at night throughout lower Manhattan, especially in SoHo. They soon began to receive support, initially mostly coming from well-established women artists, and so were able to increase their production of posters and other means of communication. One of their most iconic posters reads Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? It was used during a protest outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Guerrilla Girls appropriate the visual language of advertising to communicate their messages in a quick and accessible way. In their posters, mostly black lettering on a white or coloured background, they compile statistical data on the absence of women in the art world, using stylistic resources such as question marks and elements of surprise and humour. In many of their actions, they address the structure of seemingly objective prejudices supporting the canon and accepted narratives prevailing in the art world. Believing that individual identity is less significant than the issues in question, and also as a self-protective strategy, the Guerrilla Girls choose to remain anonymous. They wear gorilla masks and use pseudonyms that refer to women artists from the past, such as Frida Kahlo and Käthe Kollwitz, or the writer and collector Gertrude Stein, among others. The political gesture of covering themselves with aggressive gorilla masks bearing their teeth has become their sign of identity. Since the mid-eighties, the Guerrilla Girls have carried out hundreds of projects using posters, videos, publications, t-shirts, stickers – which were often stuck on the doors and windows of art galleries –, letters ridiculing top gallery owners, posters denouncing the wrongdoings of the main museums and auction houses, and other means of communication such as actions, lecture-performances, presentations and workshops with adults and teenagers, always wearing the mask that identifies them while protecting their identities. Their messages can be communicated in unusual ways, such as introducing flyers inside all the books in the Guggenheim Museum bookshop in New York. The Guerrilla Girls have performed in many cities in the world, including Bilbao, Reykjavik, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Rotterdam, São Paulo and Shanghai. They have also done interventions and exhibitions in schools, museums and all types of organisations, including a 2015 screening on the façade of the Whitney Museum’s new building in New York, denouncing wage disparities and the hijacking of art by capitalist logic. Among their retrospective exhibitions are Guerrilla Girls: Not Ready to Make Nice, which toured the United States in 2017, and Guerrilla Girls: 1985–2015, which travelled to Madrid and Bilbao in 2015.

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