Have you ever asked yourself where are the books about women artists? When you are in a museum shop or in the art section of a bookstore, I’m sure you noticed a table or perhaps a bookcase full of little books with the surname of the artist on the cover. But how many of these books are about women artists?
The huge majority of biographic books are about male artists, especially in those collections which the price is very low. These collections have the focus on those artists considered as the “great masters” of the history of art: Dürer, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Velázquez… but where are the other great masters? Such as Gentileschi, Anguissola, van Hemessen, Peeters? It is like there never were great female artists, or is they never existed at all.
After experiencing this absence of monographic books on women artists for several times, I made a little research on the online shops of the best-known publishing houses on art. The result was not a surprise, at least for me.
In the online shop of one of the most famous publishing houses I only could find books about three women artists. Only three, two of them as part of the basic collection, very affordable, the other on the work of a contemporary artist, but the price is remarkably high. Four, if we count a book about the work of an artist who works with her husband. According to their website, there are few other titles on women artists, but apparently, they are not on the web.
In other, we can find easily books on contemporary women artists, however, there isn’t a single monographic book on great female artists of the past. And probably for this reason, very recently they published a book that is a compilation of great female masters of the past. But that is not enough.
If we really want to find a good book about the career of the great women artists, we need to search among the publications of small publishing houses, some of them of very recent creation.
About the Blank Pages
The best part of my research was to see that I am not the only one asking theses questions. I have found a great art installation on this subject. This project is called About the Blank Pages and it was created in 2014 and is a collaboration between the artists Ditte Ejlerskov and EvaMarie Lindahl.
It consists of almost 200 different books of which the first 97 are published by Taschen in their series called Basic Art, the others are printed by Ejlerskov and Lindhal, they are mimicing the aspect of Taschen books. Despite the similar appearance to the Taschen books, those that are not published are filled with blank pages.
The project is questioning the selection of artists in the original Basic Art series which led to the unjust result of 5 women and 92 men and pointing that the only way to correct this fact is by publishing the missing women.
About the Blank Pages is also a research on the specific format and the process of selection concerning the art encyclopaedia. The framework of the project is the Basic Art series of Taschen; however, it could have been of any other mainstream publishing house. Both artists, Ejlerskov and Lindahl, entered the project by asking a simple question: Can you name one woman artist published by Taschen Basic Art?
The first edition of About the Blank Pages project is now on permanent exhibition at the MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo).