In ART

In a special section dedicated to women artists, Mona Khazindar, Nada Shabout and Nayla Tamraz speak with nine talented artists about life, work, equality and identity

In the 1980s, the Guerrilla Girls began wheat-pasting provocative posters around New York. Fact-based and enlivened by a wicked sense of humour, their research highlighted inequalities between male and female artists and the sexism of the art world.

In 1985, they pointed out that while on average women in America earned two thirds of a man’s salary, women artists earned only a third of their male counterparts’ income. A 1988 poster on “The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist” included the line “Knowing your career might not pick up till after you’re 80.” Their most famous poster, in 1989, asked “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”

Times have changed. But have they changed that much? Women are sometimes artists. Artists are sometimes women. The two facets of identity may be intimately intertwined, or entirely incidental. And yet, whether or not a female artist’s work is bound up with her gender, women artists around the world still face inequality and prejudice when it comes to sales, museum acquisitions and recognition from the art world.

In the upcoming pages, three prominent curators and art historians interview nine talented female artists from the Arab world. Director general of the Institute du monde arabe Mona Khazindar, art historian Nada Shabout and professor of art history and literature Nayla Tamraz each speak with three artists about life, work and the gender barriers that still exist, 30 years after the Guerrilla Girls started their grass-roots campaign for equality in the art world.

Boushra Almutawakel, Maysaloun Faraj and Samia Halaby tell Khazindar, and Haya Al Hejailan, who helped in formulating the questions and liaising with the artists, about how they began their careers as artists, their thoughts on art and freedom, the role of activism in art, how they feel about labels and their relationships with the Western art world, among other topics.

Shabout talks to Iraqi artists Rheim Alkadhi, Hayv Kahraman and Hanaa Malallah about subjects including what it means to identify as an “Iraqi” artist, the challenges that come with making art as and about women and the politics of representation.

Tamraz engages with Lebanese artists Etel Adnan, Lamia Joreige and Tagreed Darghouth about issues including the dangers of a female-oriented artistic discourse in exacerbating marginalisation and whether or not “Arab artist” and “women artist” are equally reductive terms, best addressed in the frame of an intersectional feminism.

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