Recap: Guerrilla Girls at the Brooklyn Museum
The Guerrilla Girls is an anonymous collective of female artists that first came together in the 1980’s to bring attention to the inequality of women being included, or not included rather, in gallery shows and museum exhibitions and fought for change in the art world. Within the graffiti and street art world, few have advocated for women artists as much as Alice Mizrachi, an artist, curator, and founder of Younity. She organizes exhibitions and murals and has previously worked with artists Lady Pink, Swoon, Martha Cooper, and countless others. On the occasion of the Guerrilla Girls’ performance at the Brooklyn Museum last week, Alice attended the event and wrote the recap below.
The Guerrilla Girls have been making their indelible mark in the art world since 1985. Founded in New York City, they are an anonymous group of feminists devoted to fighting against sexism within the art world. They use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose sexism, racism and corruption in politics, art, film and pop culture.
When I heard they were coming to the Brooklyn Museum I quickly marked my calendar as a “must see” reminder. They inspire my work as a young woman artist and influence me to help create opportunities for women in the art world today. I have been following them for years and this was my first time seeing them live. When we met them after the show they warmly greeted us and were genuinely excited about the work we do with women in our community.
The Guerrilla Girls entered the theatre handing out bananas in their known gorilla masks they wear to keep their anonymity. The members use pseudonyms of dead women artists as a way to pay homage to women artists so they will not be forgotten. Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz took the stage and began showing slides of posters, billboards, and protests they have worked on in the past few years. They present facts humorously in their art to bring awareness to gender and racial inequalities in the art world.
In one of their famous works, Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum?, you see a well-known Ingres’ Odalisque wearing a gorilla mask looking at the facts presented: Less than 5 percent of the works in the modern art sections of the Metropolitan Museum are by women. But 85% of their nudes are female. You would think in 2012 that the art world would be more progressive since art is supposed to open minds and show innovation. But it seems like the white men running the business of art of are just as corrupt as our government.
In a time when many are paying more attention to corruption and inequalities, The Guerrilla Girls seem as relevant as ever. We are familiar with the angry feminist approach that sometimes makes us cringe but what The Guerrilla Girls do is present the same issues with an underlying satire that hooks you in. An intelligent, appealing and factual approach with so much supporting evidence is one of the ways this group of women has managed to succeed throughout time. Kathe Kollwitz mentioned that it was a thrill to be able to criticize the same museums that hang their art on the walls. I love the very idea that they were on the Brooklyn Museum stage dissing the fact that the names engraved outside the museum building are all men. I admire their work and their ability to put aside their egos and do something for the greater good that in turn will help bring justice to the gross corruption within the art world.
Text and Photo: Alice Mizrachi