Case Studies: How Four Museums Are Taking Dramatic Measures to Admit More Women Artists Into the Art

Paintings for the Future

Our research reveals just how little art by women is being collected and exhibited by museums. But some institutions are beginning to address the problem—and starting to find solutions. Here are four case studies.

In recent years, institutions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art have made headlines by selling off the work of canonized white men to raise money to diversify their collections. But few are aware that another museum quietly undertook a similar project way back in 2013.

Now, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts serves as a case study for how such moves can create permanent and profound change within an institution.

PAFA’s decision to auction Edward Hopper’s East Wind Over Weehawken (1934) at Christie’s for $40.5 million was deemed controversial at the time. But the museum and art school has gone on to use the proceeds from that sale to consistently acquire significantly more works by female artists each year than institutions with far larger budgets, such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Dallas Museum of Art.

(Recent additions to PAFA’s collection include works by Mary Cassatt, Rina Banerjee and Pat Steir.) The museum has also acquired more works by artists of color than almost any other institution we examined in our 2018 study about the representation of African American artists.




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