Blog / 2019 / How Art Lovers Can Help Fix Art World Inequalities

July 22, 2019

[video transcript]

If you are curious about how mediocre art—made by white men and by anyone else—can end up getting so much attention, check out this video. I talk about how artists might navigate discrimination in the art world in this article.

The portrait featured in this video is of Sanchioni. It is one in a series of eleven that I painted for a book that will come out soon. The painting is available for $1500 plus shipping and tax—see all currently available artworks.

Sanchioni, portrait by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on panel
14 x 11 inches

The art world is not a meritocracy. Just because art is good does not mean that one day it will be recognized and the artist’s hard work will be rewarded. The art world, like any other field or industry, is influenced by many factors.

It makes sense to say, for example, that an artist’s education will determine their future opportunities, but it’s important to note that it’s not just the learning that will shape their path. It’s also the social network that comes with certain schools that will allow an artist to move up in the art world. And factors like that mean that straight white male creators still have a much easier time having their work seen than others.

This isn’t to say that a white dude’s art career will be like our 45th president’s rise to power: a series of gross missteps that will be erased or leveraged to ever greater effect by the man’s powerful contacts and scads of money. No, most white men don’t have quite that level of privilege.

Still, their career paths are usually a whole lot easier, and that means that white men can be used as a mental prompt.

Every time you share images by a white person, be sure to post about the art of at least three artists of color. When you find yourself reading an article about a white male artist, make it your business to search out women’s art. Maybe you buy a lot of art by able bodied artists. What if every time you did you made the effort to seek out the work of disabled creators? Similarly, when you notice that your city’s public art program gives commissions mostly to straight artists, write to the committee and suggest three queer creators that they might consider.

In other words, every time you come across the art of a cis straight white dude, it should be like Pavlov’s bell. It should make you salivate after art by voices you don’t hear as much.

Because the homogeneity at the top of the art world is obviously not fair on artists, but, more importantly, it isn’t fair on the rest of us! We don’t get to experience the true diversity of art, and we’re missing out on way too much beauty and human connection because of it.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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