Guerrilla Girls

The Internet Was 84.5% Male And 82.3% White. Until Now

1996

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Not on display

Medium
Lithograph on paper
Dimensions
Support: 431 × 559 mm
Collection
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the North American Acquisitions Committee, Richard S. Hamilton and the Cowles Charitable Trust 2015
On long term loan
Reference
L03702

Summary

The Internet Was 84.5% Male And 82.3% White. Until Now is a poster by the anonymous collective of American female artists, the Guerrilla Girls. The text of the title takes up the majority of the poster, with the first clause at the top in a large, bold, black font. The second clause is in the middle of the poster, with the two words ‘Until Now’ either side of an illustration of a gorilla’s head and shoulders, which resembles the masks the group wear to maintain their anonymity. The gorilla appears to be shouting and the letters of the words are arranged as they are reverberating from the silent roar. The text at the bottom of the poster reads: ‘A public service message from Guerilla Girls 532 La Guardia PL #237, NY 10012’.

Since their formation in 1984, the Guerrilla Girls have fought to expose sexual and racial discrimination in the art world. Conceived as a response to the International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture exhibition held in the same year at the Museum of Modern Art, New York – a survey show of 169 artists which, despite claiming to showcase the very best of contemporary art practice, included the work of only thirteen women and no artist from outside of Europe or the United States – the group conceal their identities by wearing masks and by adopting pseudonyms taken from such important deceased female figures as the writer Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) and the artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986).

Describing themselves as ‘the conscience of the art world’, the Guerrilla Girls began with a poster campaign that responded to the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition in 1984, targeting the institutions, dealers, art critics and artists who they felt were responsible for – if not silently complicit in – the exclusion of women and non-white artists from mainstream artistic circles (Chadwick and Guerrilla Girls 1995, p.15.) Tacked up around the streets of SoHo under the cover of darkness, their posters shamed commercial galleries showing few or no women artists (see Tate P78808), and questioned the morality of the city’s most renowned institutions, asking ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?’ 1985–90 (see Tate P78793).

In the same way that artists such as Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger turned to mass media techniques in the 1980s, the Guerrilla Girls also appropriated advertising strategies – and the practice of fly-posting in particular – to disseminate their messages quickly and easily to a wide audience. Containing information compiled from museum reports and magazine articles, their posters arrange stark statistics into bold graphics and eye-catching lists, designed for maximum impact in the public sphere. Whilst each project is grounded in data and research, wit and irony are also used as strategies through which to draw attention to what they see as the inadequacies of the art world and the hypocrisies and double standards of those in positions of power. Speaking about their use of humour, the group have said: ‘We’ve discovered that ridicule and humiliation, backed up by irrefutable information, can disarm the powers that be, put them on the spot, and force them to examine themselves.’ (Guerrilla Girls, undated, paragraph 24, accessed 29 September 2014.)

Whilst the group are perhaps best known for their campaigns confronting gender and racial discriminations in the art world, they have long addressed inequalities of a political and social nature. The group have said: ‘Almost from the beginning, we did campaigns about homelessness, abortion, and war, among many other issues. We’ve never been systematic, we just go after one target after another.’ (Guerrilla Girls, undated, paragraph 30, accessed 29 September 2014.) This work is part of the Guerrilla Girls Portfolio Compleat Update. Compiled of works produced between 1991 and 2012 the portfolio tackles a wide range of social injustices, disgracing intolerance of sexual orientation (L03691), disproportions in pay (L03688) alongside inequality at the Oscars (L03715) and the Venice Biennale (L03720). Dear Art Collector 2007 (L03724), which critiques the absence of art by women in private collections, demonstrates the group’s acute understanding of the vagaries of the art market when translated into Greek and Chinese (L03725–6), whilst Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into The Met. Museum? Update 2012 (L03735) – a repurposing of the iconic poster of 1985 (Tate P78793) – reinforces the Guerrilla Girls’ campaign for justice and equality as an ongoing one.

Further reading
Guerrilla Girls, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, undated, http://www.guerrillagirls.com/interview/faq.shtml, accessed 29 September 2014.
Whitney Chadwick, Guerrilla Girls, Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls, New York 1995.
Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz, ‘Transgressive Techniques of the Guerrilla Girls’, Getty Research Journal, no.2, 2010, pp.203–8.

Hannah Johnston
September 2014

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