Still Counting: Why the Visual Arts Must Do Better on Gender Equality

Julie Shiels, RMIT University

You have to get more than a bit mad to single-handedly launch a campaign against inequality. At a recent forum, visual artist Elvis Richardson wryly described how anger was the catalyst that sparked her to start CoUNTess, a blog that assembles and reviews data on gender representation in Australia’s contemporary art scene.

The CoUNTess poster.
Image: Sadie Chandler for CoUNTess

Since 2008, Richardson has analysed the gender breakdown of who gets exhibited, collected, reviewed and rewarded. Converting indignation into statistics and emotion into hard facts, her blog provides irrefutable evidence that gender bias is an ongoing problem besetting the visual arts.

The most current snapshot illustrates that only 34% of the artists shown in state museums are women. In commercial galleries, the proportion is 40%. In the art media, 34% of feature articles and reviews are about women, but 80% of magazine covers are dedicated to male artists.

Change needs to be embraced at every level, not least in developing art curriculum in secondary schools. Victorian students who sat their final Studio Art exam last week were given 14 images to write about, of which only one was produced by a woman. A cursory survey of exams in previous years and other states suggests such bias is entrenched.

Over the past decade, the gatekeepers of the Australian art scene have started responding to the unconscious bias Richardson documents. When comparing the graphs and charts in her old posts with the 2016 CoUNTess Report, it is possible to identify small improvements. Still, as Richardson says in her report introduction:

The closer an artist gets to money, prestige and power the more likely they are to be male.

A recent study by David Throsby and Katya Petetskaya also shows the gender pay gap is substantial in the Australian art scene.


Further reading: The gender pay gap is wider in the arts than in other industries


The 2016 CoUNTess Report was made possible with support from the Cruthers Art Foundation. This organisation is making a substantial contribution towards rebalancing the statistics via the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art, the only dedicated public collection of art by Australian women.

Begun in 1974 as a private family collection acquiring women’s art, the collection consists primarily of portraiture, self portraiture and art that is focused on still life, abstraction, early postmodernism and second wave feminism.

The collection was gifted to the University of Western Australia in 2007 and is housed at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. Cruthers curator Gemma Weston believes the collection plays a role in valuing and making visible the work of women artists, which in turn can provide a pathway to its acceptance in the institutional domain. Individual works are often loaned to other art museums around Australia.

Weston identifies visibility as a key factor in determining what gets collected and how an artist gets traction in her career. She says institutional recognition is a long and complicated process of gathering momentum, which often begins with the private collector rather than the art museum.

There is no doubt that all-women collections and exhibitions can help to change the depressing statistics assembled by Richardson. There is concern, however, that this strategy can cause ghettoisation.

Weston is conscious of this conundrum. Cruthers’ current show Country and Colony moves beyond the concerns of previous exhibitions to document “women’s art” and “women’s issues” through biography, autobiography and portraiture.

While gender and feminist politics are a subtext, Colony and Country profiles new acquisitions that deal with the fraught history of colonialism. The paintings, prints and objects by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists tell stories about land, landscape, the body, industry and culture.

Building momentum for change

While the speed of change appears glacial, the momentum to overcome structural inequality for female artists appears to be building. In September, 11 top gallery directors, curators and arts organisation chiefs in the UK united in a call for greater representation of female artists.

A month later, possibly encouraged by the fall of the American movie producer Harvey Weinstein, the call-out of sexist and abusive behaviour in cultural industries spread to the visual arts. Numerous sexual harassment allegations were made against powerful and prominent gatekeeper, Artforum co-publisher Knight Landesman.

Landesman’s resignation from the international art publication has prompted many more women to come forward with stories about his alleged behaviour. An open letter written by women in the art world, “We are not surprised”, has morphed into a larger campaign linking abuse of power with structural inequality.

By providing a graphic illustration of inequality, Richardson’s CoUNTess project has done much to bring the issue into view in Australia. Together with Weston’s thoughtful management and curation, the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art is another important step in changing the status quo. Many arts organisations and individuals who have the capacity to bring about change have started counting and making an effort to rectify the imbalance.

Yet when part of the cost of overlooking structural inequality is sexual harassment it is time for more decisive action. While extreme examples of sexual misconduct have not (yet) been exposed in Australia, demeaning behaviour is regularly meted out by the art scene gatekeepers. There are also anecdotal stories of grooming and sexual advances by powerful male gatekeepers. At present, few speak up because they fear damaging their career prospects.

The CoUNTess Report recommends that “stakeholders in the Australian visual art sector routinely collect, analyse and publish gender representation data and use it to inform their policy decisions”.

A rebalance of gender representation will only occur if all institutions that have a role in shaping the value of artists’ work start counting.

As in the tertiary sector, many more girls than boys study art at school. In Victoria, for example, 73% of the cohort who completed Studio Art in 2016 were girls. Unless there is significant improvement, why would future generations of women pursue a career in the visual arts?


The ConversationCountry and Colony runs until December 16 2017.

Julie Shiels, Lecturer in Art in Public Space, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Lowdown: Australian Copyright Laws

Ready to learn?

Let’s start with what is copyright? Basically it is how a creator can protect their labour and creativity legally and can sometimes extend beyond economic loss however there are some differences between design and general copyright protection:

  • Protection under the Designs Act 2003 (Cth) requires a formal application for registration before rights are obtained. Before you can pursue anyone for infringement of a registered design, it must be examined and certified by the Registrar. Unlike enforcing copyright, which does not require any formal registration or certification process.
  • Design registration requires a  fee whereas copyright protection is automatic and free (yay!).

Copyright Protection

What must be met for copyright protection:

  • Product meet the definition of ‘artistic work’ (such as a painting, a  drawing, sculpture or work of artistic craftsmanship).
  • The work must be in material form. This means it cannot be a mere idea or theory.
  • The product must be original, artistic work, meaning  the work cannot be copied from another person. If you are claiming copyright for it, it must come from you.

If your work/product meets the above then registration for copyright is not necessary as it is automatic. Keep in mind though, you will need to have proof that the work is originally yours so things like progress images, prototypes etc. help disputes of copyright ownership. After all, there’s no point getting the law involved if you can’t prove your background and claim is legitimate.

Design Protection

An important thing to note is the differences between design and copyright protection:

  • This protects a product’s appearance but not it’s function.
  • However if the function is related to a product’s appearance will not disqualify it from registration.
  • It must be distinctly different to existing product designs publicly used in Australia, or published in a document anywhere.

Important Things To Note

  • Unless dual protection (copyright and design protection) is possible, copyright protection is lost when a design is registered.
  • Once a product has been reduced at industrial quantities, copyright protection is lost and it is also no longer possible to register the design.

Music: Paramore Announces 2018 Australian Tour

Get excited – Paramore is coming to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for its 2018 ‘Tour Four’ Australian Tour.

With their new album After Laughter, the pop rock band will kickstart their 2018 tour across Europe before making their way to Australia in February, followed by New Zealand and the Philippines. Other than vocalist Hayley Williams and guitarist Taylor York, the tour will also feature drummer Zac Farro who rejoined the band earlier this year.

Tickets will go on sale starting Wednesday, November 15, 12pm local time.

Melbourne: Rod Laver Arena, Thursday, February 8

Sydney: Qudos Bank Area, Friday, February 9

Brisbane: Riverstage, Sunday, February 11

Digital: Best Software for Producing Music

Alright! So you want to try your hand at producing music, you’ve got your basic gear but what  about the software? DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) are a type of software that basically works as a blank space in which you can drop your audio and start playing from there! But this type of thing can also be fairly pricey so this list will give you a healthy spending range no matter how deep that wallet of yours is:

Ableton Live

Experience level: Moderate – Expert

This one is pricey, I’ll admit but for those who are in it for the long run, this is quite worth it. It has unlimited multi-track recording, seamless MIDI sequencing software and hardware and no uh… troubles with their MIDI controllers getting mapped to the sounds through the DAW. Oh and another big bonus; sound packages ARE included!

Avid Pro Tools

Experience level: Expert – Pro

A more or less industry standard, you can compose, record, mix, edit, master, etc. its own Avid Audio Engine which gives you some dang fast processing with the addition of a 64-bit memory capacity for lag/freeze-free sessions.

Propellerhead Reason

Experience level: Kinda Beginner – Kinda Pro

A fairly zippy piece of software, that’s about half the price of Avid Pro, drag and drop-able for your convenience and even includes amp and speaker plug-ins for those of you who want to record and drop in your own guitar sound bites. And a bonus for the lazier of us; auto trimming wooh!

Sony Acid

Experience level: Beginner – Nostalgic

An oldie but a goodie, many of us started on this one so it’ll always have a special place in our hearts. This is where the beginners can learn, with a fairly intuitive interface and, although the older version were a little uncooperative with the MIDIs, nowadays they’ve fixed that up pretty well making it a solid tool for beginners all the way up to the experts.

PreSonus Studio

Experience level: Moderate – Semi Pro

Something that has all the essentials is PreSonus, it’s your very own all-in-one workstation with MIDI, VST, buses and FX channels, drag-and-drop (of course), mastering integration, unlimited tracks and more. If you feel you’re getting more serious but still want to keep things relatively simple then this is a good choice.

Sydney Architecture Festival 2017

The Sydney Architecture Festival is running for its 11th year this year with talks, workshops, tours and more all focused around our heritage, homes, futures and what we’re at risk of losing in this century. This year it’s going to be even more focused with the festival’s hub being set at 1SPQ for Western Sydney University (Parramatta), which stage 1 in one of Australia’s biggest urban renewal projects.

Here is a general overview of what you can expect from the festivities:

29th Sept – Party, Party, Party!

The launch party will last from 5-9pm, departing from Wharf 7, King St Wharf.
and arriving at the Peter Shergold Building.

30th Sept – Talks, Tours and Exhibitions

Finding Sydney’s “Missing Middle” Exhibition will be running from morning til afternoon at the Peter Shergold Building from 30th Sept to 1st Oct. Those wanting to learn more about mosques should check out the 9:30-1:30PM talk and tour of the Punchbowl Mosque (lunch included) and there’s also Walk, Talk and Draw Parramatta departing from the Peter Shergold Building at 12:30PM.

1st Oct – Digital Placemaking and
Platform Urbanism

This is a live podcasting event where we’ll meet the future of digital placemaking, and the impact of blockchain’s smart contracting on architecture worldwide. Can cities be platforms for distributed innovation? Register for your place to find out!

2nd Oct – World Architecture Day Oration

Kristien Ring is an architect, curator and author, her interdisciplinary studio, AA PROJECTS, deals with future oriented urban planning and architecture. During this talk she’ll present a citizen-led housing model that could make housing 20-30% more affordable than the present prices.

Event/Exhibition: 2017 Meredith Music Festival

Meredith Music Festival is back in its 27th year, and it promises a three-night event to remember.

The Supernatural Amphiteatre will host a vast range of musicians, including Todd Terje and The Olsens, Total Control, Silence Wedge, Warpaint, !!!, Japanese Breakfast, Noname, Kikagaku Moyo, The Senegambian Jazz Band, Rings Around Saturn and more to be announced soon.

While subscriber ticket ballot has closed, store and online tickets will be available starting next week for $375.20. For more information, visit Meredith Music Festival’s website.

December 8-10 | Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith

Music: Ben Folds is Coming Back to Australia with ‘Paper Aeroplane Request Tour’

Ben Folds is coming back to Australia next year for his solo shows.

The Paper Aeroplane Request Tour will visit Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart as well as Auckland in February 2018, with a Melbourne date to be announced soon.

Each concert will take form of a two-part piano show. In the first half Folds will play his best hits from Rockin The Suburbs to Way to Normal and beyond, while in the second half the audiences will write their requested songs on a paper plane and fly them to the stage for the troubadour to select randomly and play. That’s right – you get to decide what Folds will play at the night.

Tickets will go on sale this Friday. For more information, visit Ben Folds’s website.

Brisbane: February 4 | The Tivoli

Sydney: February 6 | Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

Canberra: February 8 | Canberra Theatre Centre

Adelaide: February 9 | Festival Theatre

Perth: February 11 | Chevron Festival Gardens

Hobart: February 13 | Theatre Royal

Digital: Adobe to “End-of-Life” Flash by 2020

Adobe has announced that the Flash Player will be phased out by the end of 2020, effectively “killing” the plugin.

“Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats,” said the company in a statement.

Until then, Adobe will still be working with Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Mozilla to support Flash content.

Adobe said it would be focusing on other open standards, such as HTML5 and WebAssembly.

Flash has been struggling for years with security concerns and hacking problems, with Adobe being unable to provide security updates fast enough to keep users safe. In 2015, Adobe replaced Flash Professional software with the more HTML5-focused Adobe Animate, five years after Steve Jobs complained about Flash’s security and performance issues.

Music: Chester Bennington of Linkin Park Dies at 41

Lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington has died at age 41.

Bennington’s death at his private residence Thursday has been confirmed by The Los Angeles County Coroner as a suicide by hanging.

The death coincided with the band’s release of the music video for their new song “Talking To Myself”, the second single from their most recent album One More Light.

Bennington joined Linkin Park in 1999, which went on to achieve fame with their debut album Hybrid Theory. Since then, the band has sold over 70 million albums around the world.

In past interviews, the singer had discussed his struggles with substance abuse and childhood trauma.

Following Bennington’s death, Linkin Park announced that they will be cancelling their North American tour, which was previously set to begin on July 27.

Event/Exhibition: Celebrate Studio Ghibli Showcase, Australia

Love yourself some Studio Ghibli flicks? Well, good news – the animation house’s complete catalogue is coming to Australian cinemas.

The showcase features all 22 films from Ghibli, including the popular My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, the seldom seen Ghiblies Episode 2, and the first ever to be screened in Australia, Ocean Waves.

The opening night of Celebrate Studio Ghibli Showcase also promises an event to remember, as ticket holders can get an opportunity to win special A1 print by award-winning artist Shaun Tan.

The showcase will run from August 24 to September 20 at select cinemas across the country. For tickets and more information, visit Studio Ghibli’s website.