Women in the Arts in Asia


By: Meaghan McGurgan


Over the weekend I read an article by art historian Linda Nochlin entitled, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" It was an essay that had been re-written, and updated since its original publication in 1971, but still I couldn't help but feel infuriated while I read it. No great women artists?!!! What a crock of....



Women especially in Asia, even the urbanites, still face tremendous pressure to marry young, provide an heir, defer to authority, and center their daily life around the children. When women work outside the home it remains to supplement to the collective family income rather than their dreams. A woman's aspiration to fill the VP slot in an enterprise is seen as admirably ambitious; the idea of driving to become number one invites disparagement as a bitch. Hell, women are easily painted as being a bitch in the art world for simply asking for fair pay for their work. 


I'm reminded of the "Women in Comedy" episode of 30 Rock where Tina Fey was asked to name funny women. She's like... "We don't have to name them. Men and women find different things funny". Why when writing an article about powerful women in the arts in Asia, should I feel the urge to name off women who have succeeded in the art world? I shouldn't. To try and compare every artist against Van Gogh or Warhol is wrong. Art is unique. That's why it's special. Men and women appreciate different things in art and also define success differently. Money isn't everything. Perhaps that's why we hear more about the Terry Richardsons of the world, rather than the Jo Farrells. Oh crap... I just named a successful female artist. Did I just ruin my case?


Nochlin argues in her original essay that social predilections and education systematically precluded the emergence of great women artists, especially in the Asia region. Since her original publication, how do you think women in the arts have challenged the status quo? I think there were amazing female artists prior to the 70's and even more so, since then, but how about you? Do women still experience a subliminal gender bias? Is there a glass ceiling within the arts establishment for women? Are the challenges of the 21st century any different than those in the past? 


I want to hear your thoughts as women, as artists, and as members of the Hong Kong community. 


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