No boys allowed: this year’s Chart art fair will only exhibit women artists

Event across five Nordic cities tackles issue of male-dominated art world head on

Wangechi Mutu's Snake Eater (2014) Photo: Lars Gundersen © Edition Copenhagen

Wangechi Mutu's Snake Eater (2014) Photo: Lars Gundersen © Edition Copenhagen

The organisers of the Nordic Chart art fair say they plan to show only women artists at this year’s eighth edition (28-30 August) in a bid to “highlight one of the biggest structural barriers in the art scene and art market: gender imbalance”. In another radical move, the fair will adopt a new “de-centred format” this year in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, taking place across five Nordic cities.

The fair's director, Nanna Hjortenberg, tells The Art Newspaper that they “were already planning to present women artists exclusively at Chart 2020 at [the usual venue] Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. With a strong collective statement from the participating galleries, we want to start the debate [around gender inequality] and engage the entire arts sector in developing solutions for a better-balanced art scene. In the Nordics, we know that by pushing collectively we can create a much bigger impact than we can achieve individually.”

Works by artists such as Anastasia Ax, Emma Helle, Andrea Büttner, Ane Graff and Chantal Joffe will be available at Chart from 28 participating galleries. Henrikke Nielsen of Croy Nielsen gallery plans to show porcelain works by the Danish artist Nina Beier at the fair. “I think it is an interesting move in a commercial context, as we all know that we are very far from gender equality when it comes to the art market,” she says. While her gallery is based in Vienna, Danish-born Nielsen hopes to find a space in Copenhagen that the gallery can use for the exhibition.

Nina Beier's Empire (2019) Photo: Courtesy of Croy Nielsen, Vienna

Last year’s Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report highlighted how gender inequality underpins the male-dominated art market. Only 36% of the artists represented by galleries in 2018 were female, accounting for an average of 32% of sales, and from a survey of 82 events, just 24% of the 27,000 artists shown at art fairs are by women.

All of the dealers will present the works in their own gallery spaces located across the five Nordic capital cities: Copenhagen, Oslo, Reykjavik, Stockholm and Helsinki. Social distancing guidelines will be put in place as part of the new multi-city initiative.

“As we looked around, we saw that everyone is having a difficult time; we want to contribute to re-opening the art scene but in a rebalanced and more sustainable way,” Hjortenberg says. “This is a call to action for local and regional scenes, involving collectors, museums and curators.”

An online “visitors” programme comprising talks and events will enable international collectors to connect with the participating galleries; a publication with details of all exhibited artists will also be released.