Nicole Ex, See All This. Foto: Sanja Marusic.
''You shouldn't have to shout to be heard,
whispering should suffice.''
Nicole Ex is the founder and editor-in-chief of See All This, an art magazine that appears in print four times a year, and which - under the name Pretty Brilliant - is committed to more attention for female artists.
And in 2021 that still appears to be really necessary.
It all started with "99 Genius Women in the Arts", in the 2018 See All This summer issue, which focused on the voice of women in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in 2019. Nicole Ex: 'It was a huge shock when we gradually realized during the preparation of that issue that in the first editions of Janson's History of Art and Gombrich's The Story of Art, the two most important reference works in the field of Western art history - and mandatory reading for art history students – there were no women. None. In the revised 2014 edition, there are 37 out of a total of 747 artists."
An astonishing observation indeed.
In response - after all, there was still a lot of work to be done - See All This decided to celebrate its five-year anniversary with a special 2020/2021 anniversary issue consisting of no less than 300 pages dedicated to 379 female artists from all over the world. An issue that hit like a bomb. It is not without reason that this "visually overwhelming" (****, NRC) edition is now in its second edition and is as yet the only reference work devoted to the role of women artists throughout the centuries. And such a book appears to be desperately needed, because to this day the market share of female artists has been dramatic (2 percent in 2019, good for 3.5 billion euros, which is less than there has been paid for Picasso alone in the past decade).
Claudy Jongstra, Diptych, 2021, Galerie Fontana.
With the results of the See All This study in mind, I wanted to know what lies behind this backlog and how we could overcome that. So I called up Nicole Ex with three pressing questions:
MK: “How did this total denial of the existence of female artists come about and why does it exist to this day?”
NE: “That is quite a big question that is almost impossible to answer. However, this denial has to do with a number of assumptions. For example, women would have too much or too little ambition and the quality of their work would not be good enough. Rather, I look for the cause in our 'internalized glass ceiling' that both sexes are guilty of and that explains why there is still a sense of contempt (on the part of men) and inferiority (on the part of women) when comes down to qualities that are historically regarded as feminine such as the emotional and the physical, the nurturing and the seductive. But the feminine also stands for creation and creation, for security. It is not without reason that we speak of Mother Earth. These qualities have traditionally been valued less than the masculine characteristics such as rationality and certainty. In the eyes of the ruling religious and social elite, the female part of the population had better stay at home to prevent the values and norms - and their associated privileges - of the male, white establishment from being compromised. Women had better fulfil their nurturing and supportive responsibilities for the family. Moreover, as a child-bearing being, women would not be able to make a career and acquire the accompanying financial independence. So win-win. Seen from one side, that is.”
Natascha Libbert, Cliffhanger, 2020, Galerie Vriend van Bavink.
MK: “How can we turn this situation around without a loss of quality?”
NE: “Emancipation starts with the freedom to choose - for work, for children, or for both - and with equal remuneration. In addition, we must get rid of the prejudice that women have less talent or that their work is of lower quality. These are assumptions that do not make sense but are intended to exclude people. We must look for soft values, based on freedom of choice and empathy. By soft values I mean values that allow room for personal freedom, empathy, curiosity, change, care for the planet, etc. I believe that we are currently at a tipping point where we should stop looking at the world with one eye. Men and women should not operate in isolation from each other or compete with each other. From his / her individuality, every artist must be seen and appreciated on his / her own merit and not on prejudices. However, this will not work without the cooperation of gallerists, collectors, museum directors and art critics.”
Awoiska van der Molen, #589-5, 2020, Annet Gelink Gallery.
MK: “I am told that Pretty Brilliant is an on-going project. How long do you intend to go on?”
NE: “As long as the catch-up has not been made, See All This will continue its work for female artists who shape their careers in their own way, and not just the upcoming, young and media-friendly talents or the old, eccentric female artists with a great oeuvre. You shouldn't have to shout to be heard whispering should suffice. Even a soft voice can make itself heard. See All This takes care of that.”
Robin de Puy, Randy, #8230, 2017, The Ravestijn Gallery.
Top 5 Female Artists on GalleryViewer by Nicole Ex:
• Jacqueline Hassink
• Claudy Jongstra
• Natascha Libbert
• Awoiska van der Molen
• Robin de Puy