Guerrilla Girls’ Resistance Via Arts- An Impeccable Feat

by Vrinda Jain
Guerrilla Girls’ Resistance Via Arts- An Impeccable Feat

February 11, 2021

During the art movement's peak in the 20th century, some female artists were imminent and had new viewpoints to present in society. Still, their representation in the exhibitions and museums was meagre because of the prevailing sexism and disparity between genders in society.

As discriminatory as our society has been for centuries, the most polarised and visible discrimination is gender bias. Women were not, and still aren’t at many stages in many parts of the world, allowed any space in the civil populace as men predefined their area in the homely bounds.

And this bifurcation of roles is apparent even in the world of arts and aesthetics. Women were not able to present their craft for a long time. While the definition of feminist art was expanding in the 20th century, what unified women’s work created within the movement was the need for women’s equality, both in the arts community and the wider world.

It is 30 years since the Guerrilla Girls – a shifting collective of activists committed to exposing inequality in the art world.

Guerrilla Girls- Precursors of Arts Equality

Recognising the problem of gendered bias in the art world, Guerrilla Girls came into existence. One doesn’t know who they are, their personalities, or even their name or age. In 1985, a bunch of female artists came together and called themselves ‘Guerrilla Girls’. Their main goal – “to protest against the sexism faced by women in the world of art”.

Who are the Guerrilla Girls?

The Guerrilla Girls’ first demonstration dates back to 1985, outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They highlighted the sparse female representation in the gallery’s contemporary art exhibition An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture. The show featured 148 males, 13 females and no artists of colour.

During the 20th-century modern art movement’s peak, Guerrilla Girls came into existence when many respected galleries lacked sufficient representation of women artists and curators. It coincided with the imbalance of the female artists on display while there was an abundance of art portraying the “female type”.

Event that is part performance art, part lecture, and part fake fur, the Guerrilla Girls will visit Oakland University to entertain audiences.

Guerrilla Girls' Incessant Movement

Since the 80s, the Guerrilla Girls have not stopped their denunciations on the systemic lack of recognition women face, not only in the artistic realms but also in business and politics. Through the absence of women in the art world, they reclaimed the conspicuousness.

They criticised public institutions‘ funding for their work and the pervasive invisibility in the cultural and social sphere. Their works have been widely popular and have been a topic of debate for years. But, no one knows who these girls as individuals are. And this mainly comes from the reason that the Guerrilla Girls wear masks.

The event that is part performance art, part lecture, and part fake fur, the Guerrilla Girls will visit Oakland University to entertain audiences.

What Was the Need to Hide Their Identity?

The Guerrilla Girls wore gorilla masks to hide their identities and to focus more on the issues than on their personalities. Their real identity remains unknown. Each member took the name of a deceased artist or other creative luminaries.

Their anonymity exists in the form of not revealing the name, age, face or biography that makes it difficult for trolls to come at them. One can try email abuse or the common sexual threat that feminist activists face, but the effect is diminished when the receiver looks like an impassive gorilla.

A picture of 5 women in guerrila masks.

Names to Some Faces

Frida Kahlo, Rosalba Carriera, Lee Krasner, and other names connected them to their forerunners, women who in the 1980s were still absent from most history textbooks. All we know is that their names are those of women artists or others related to the world of art. Their image serves as a platform for their debate and is the focus and target of their protests.

They opted to remain anonymous to protect their careers while also bringing out the issues that needed to be highlighted. They gathered money and began researching racism, sexism and corruption. Hundreds of posters, billboards, street banners, books, concerts, seminars, videos, and exhibitions have been developed, revealing the art world’s biases and film, politics, and pop culture.

The Nature Of Their Works

Feminism and diversity were mostly greeted with ignorance in the art world of the 1980s. To counteract this indifference and react, the Guerrilla Girls included satire, irony, noticeable indignation, advertising design, and the systematic targeting of individuals and organisations by the 1970s Feminist Movement; the Guerrilla Girls pursued activist campaigns.

Not afraid of being pushy and obnoxious, the Guerrilla Girls continued to wage war on what they felt was an unjust structure. What is challenging to stress, in comparison, was how divisive the methods of the Guerrilla Girls were at a time when the art world was less open to an available combination of politics and art.

Wide Ranging Impacts of Guerrilla Girls

The spectrum of institutional and individual reactions to their behaviour has indeed been mixed. Even in the most liberal circles, some insiders of the art world who called themselves feminists resented the concept of filling quotas. .However, the organisations started to take note of the works done by the girls.

In 1986, the Cooper Union held two panels held by Guerrilla Girls: “Hidden Agender: An Evening with Critics” and “Passing the Bucks: An Evening with Art Dealers” The panels asked critics and collectors to share their views on the gender gap in art and how to close it.

In 1987, The Clocktower, an independent exhibition venue, invited Guerrilla Girls to organise works in protest at the Whitney Museum’s Biennial of Contemporary American Art, Guerrilla Girls Review The Whitney.

In 1989, aiming to attract a wider audience, the group created a poster, “Do women need to be nude to reach the Museum?-Oh“. It ran like an ad on public buses. Since then, many campaigns have gained broader importance and brought this movement to people’s attention.


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