Leibovitz’s Female Gallerists Will Be Seen As Historical Footnote In Art World Gender Equality

Annie Leibovitz’ s photograph of 14 of today’s influential women gallerists celebrates a perceived ‘sea change’. The image was created in response to a famous photograph created by Hans Namuth who, in 1982, snapped a shot of the most important people in the art world lunching at Odeon restaurant. This included Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Joseph Kosuth, Richard Serra, Lawrence Weiner, Nassos Daphnis, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Artschwager, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Cletus Johnson, Keith Sonnier, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Leo Castelli, Ed Ruscha, James Rosenquist, and Robert Barry. All of them, with the exception of Mia Westerlund Roosen, were men.

Leibovitz’s image is in a similar pose at the same restaurant for Vanity Fair. But instead features the top female gallerists of today with the choice being; Eva Presenhuber, Marianne Boesky, Paula Cooper, Marian Goodman, Barbara Gladstone, Shaun Caley Regen, Helen Winer, Janelle Reiring, Luisa Strina, Philomene Magers, Jeanne Greenberg-Rohatyn, Victoria Miro, Monika Sprüth, and Rhona Hoffman.

The image juxtaposes nicely with its predecessor – a reflection of changing times; a restorative balance – at least in terms of the images – yet is highlighting an art world gender battle a necessary thing in the second decade of the 21st century? Some might say that the gender references should be dropped altogether; instead focusing on individual achievement without need of that reference.

But it would seem that the gender issue is very much alive for the subjects of this latest image, with Marian Goodman telling Vanity Fair; “I want to be a trustworthy partner, someone the artist is comfortable talking to, who will listen and respond ethically. I know some male dealers who take that approach, too, but I think it’ s more likely to be found in a woman.” Barbara Gladstone observes, “Of course it’ s a generalisation, but I think for the women dealers it is about relationships and for the men it’s about business.”

So it would seem that the Leibovitz work is – through juxtaposition with the Hans Namuth image – a reflection of a more balanced art world than the work of 1982 represented. But also reflects the fact that even though equality has been hard-fought by a generation of women; the perceptions of gender, have yet to completely equalise, or become neutral – even in today’s international art world. The image will be seen as an historical footnote on the journey through ‘reflective’ portraits of the art world, and how they will, I’m sure, evolve over time.

Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2014 photo courtesy of Vanity Fair all rights reserved

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