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A gallery that only represents female artists? That will never work!

Poppycock! It can and is working! Parisian Laetita Gorsy is proving doubters wrong at She BAM!

By Maeshelle West-Davies

Disgusted at the underrepresentation of women in the art world, Laetitia decided to do something about it. She sees no problem in working solely with women. There is plenty of talent out there. But this doesn’t mean she isn’t discerning and she only chooses artists she truly believes in and wants to work with.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 51 per cent of US visual artists today are women. You’d never know it if you walked into a gallery or museum! The Vasari Corridor in Florence, Italy houses the world’s greatest collection of artist self-portraits. They start in the early 16th century and continue to today. Here, it is shown in the who’s who of centuries of art history that women make up a mere seven percent of the 1700 self-portraits. This needs to change.

In the past, women were relegated to domestic roles. However, the last century has seen the roles of women change dramatically. It’s high time the art world caught up. Tate Modern director Frances Morris states that:

“Women have been discriminated against for centuries, and major institutions have typically failed to support the careers of women artists working on the margins. The number of women in the Tate collection is growing, and half the rooms in the Natale Bell Building are currently devoted to a sole female artist, but work remains to be done.”

It would be amazing if we were at the point where it wasn’t even a topic for debate. One day, hopefully we won’t even have to think about a more representative and gender balanced art world. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. We need forward thinkers like Laetitia and projects like She Bam! to make that happen.

But just how risky is this move to have a gallery that represents women only? Of Artnet's list of 100 bestselling artists, five are women. As the most expensive work sold by a woman artist at auction, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, sold for $44.4 million in 2014. The record for a work by a male artist was $450.3 million for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold in 2017. OK, that might sound ridiculous to compare a 20th century artist to a Renaissance one but let’s make it fairer by comparing her with a contemporary. Picasso’s Les femmes d'Alger fetched $179.4 million at auction in 2015, making it the second most expensive work sold. That’s still a huge difference.

Laetita is unphased. She is breaking rules across the board and started by changing the concept of what a gallery is. Tucked away in an unassuming space, under a staircase at Spinnerei art complex in Leipzig, Germany, you see a light and then, BAM!. There it is, a boutique-like space that gives full attention to the works and not the space itself. Laetitia started with a large space, but opted instead for this micro gallery. Why spend so much in rent? Her focus is on helping artists and this way she can afford to support them financially, as well as morally.

She is also branching out into other avenues, places and mediums. One such project has artists' paintings made into area rugs and carpets. Why should art be trapped in galleries, museums and collector's walls? It should be part of our everyday lives. This is also another way funds can be generated to support the work of other artists whose work may not fit in every day norms.

From September, Laetitia will take her concept to Paris. She aims to find a corner where she can continue to fight the power. It will be hard because Paris has such a rich artistic history and is resistant to change. Work by female artists makes up between three to five percent of permanent collections in US and Europe. Museums like Tate are paying attention and increasing that number but you don’t really see French institutions on the list of progressive thinkers. Hopefully, Laetitia will be able to do something about that, even if it’s a small contribution.

So, who is Laetitia representing? Here are a few of her artists:

Dorothee Louise Recker

A true European, Norwegian born Dorothee Louise Recker works between Paris, Berlin and the South of France. Her paintings reflect this marriage of cultures: aurora borealis, Scandinavian winters, GDR quirkiness and Parisian chic meet Mediterranean heat. Colour and gesture come to the forefront as she combines these influences in equal or unequal measures.

Inga Kerber

Photographer, Inga Kerber, works in clichés. At first one thinks her series are just the same image repeated. Closer examination shows slight differences. With their faded quality, her images seem to come from a place of memory. They are romantic and ever so alarming at the same time.

Peggy Pehl

Ever playful, Peggy Pehl's work makes you smile and wonder. Somehow, they seem like those crazy conversations where you ask yourself how you got to that topic. It’s always a surprise and never a disappointment.

Laetitia Gorsy is doing her best to balance out the inequality in the art world but she can’t do it alone. We need to make sure we support our women in the arts! Don’t buy something just because a woman made it. That will only devalue the work. Buy something you love that a female artist made. Be active in attending shows of women artists. Be aware. Talk about the work. Create a buzz. Make a place for women.

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