Tate trustees have decided to “address the gender balance” of the collection. At present the gallery holds work by 2,914 artists, of which 348 (12%) are female. Since female artists tend to be represented by fewer works than their male colleagues, the number of items by women is only 7% of the total. The picture is more balanced with contemporary artists; among the 175 artists born after 1960, 55 are female (31%).
The best represented female artist at Tate is Barbara Hepworth, with 128 items. This is largely due to generous donations by the sculptor’s estate (Hepworth’s son-in-law, Sir Alan Bowness, is a former Tate director). Other female artists who are well-represented at Tate include Rebecca Horn (31 works), Louise Bourgeois (30) and Bridget Riley (30). Obvious gaps in the collection are Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo.
A Tate spokesperson told The Art Newspaper that “while we do not operate positive discrimination in relation to women artists, we are very concerned to address areas where, historically, women artists may have been unduly neglected”. The move follows an initiative at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm which launched a campaign last year to raise funds to acquire work by women.