What's Wrong With The Saatchi Gallery's All Female Exhibition

The Saatchi Gallery is hosting until March 6 its first ever all female exhibition, entitled Champagne Life. The title is apparently a sarcastic take on the general public vision of the artist leading a life of extravagance and fame. Champagne it generally ain’t. Usually it is tea or coffee. Or a gin and tonic if inspiration is slow. Champagne Life is also the title of one of the exhibited artists’ work, Julia Wachtel from America.

The benefits of an all-female exhibition are not that obvious at first glance. It is doubtful that they will become any clearer after deeper consideration. What for? Can an all-female show be any less sexist that an all-male show?

Julia Wachtel's Champagne Life, 2014. (Photo: Saatchi Gallery)

Julia Wachtel's Champagne Life, 2014. (Photo: Saatchi Gallery)

Do we still need this dichotomy and is this the best way to break the mould? It is certainly not the best way to achieve gender equality. Men might even wonder whether they are allowed in the gallery at all. It presents the fair sex as something alien, something set aside from the other half of humanity.

It is true that women are generally speaking the parents pauvres of gallery representation. And this is a bad thing. Women artists are just as capable as men. They offer a complementary view of the world, one that is as valid as anyone else’s. We all know that.

Of course, there are cases when segregation of the sexes is needed - I am thinking of abuse victims, for instance. In the case of an art show though, what is needed is probably more an opportunity to strut your stuff alongside men rather than having once again been pigeonholed. How else can you compare, how else can you blend, how else can you excel?

But in a way we are not talking about artistic value here, are we? We would be talking instead of value of art. The West is still by and large a patriarchy and the big buyers, the ones who decree what art is and how much it will cost, are men.

The art world is not biased in favour of male artists, it is biased in favour of men with money. Or we could simply say that it is biased by money, which would be more accurate. The misrepresentation of women in the art world is a direct consequence of this, and art should not reflect this mercantile state of affair, not either way.

One of the works to be exhibited, Stephanie Quayle, Two Cows 2013 (Photo: Stephanie Quayle/Saatchi Gallery)

One of the works to be exhibited, Stephanie Quayle, Two Cows 2013 (Photo: Stephanie Quayle/Saatchi Gallery)

Article written by Christophe Dillinger.

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