What have we learned from the Guerrilla Girls work, “The Male Graze”?

Guerrilla Girls’ new body of work titled "The Male Graze" has been one of the biggest highlights of this year's Art Night edition. "The Male Graze" is Guerrilla Girls largest public commission in the UK. It is running both online and offline until the 18th of July. Scattered in public places around the UK, we’re sure you have  come across one of their fantastic billboards displayed! If you haven't, make sure you check our previous article to find their exact locations. 

Guerrilla Girls are asking the public to go to museums and count how many women artists there are in relation to the number of naked women. ‘What do you do with these numbers?’ - you may be wondering. You can submit them (here!) online, and at the end of the month, we will be able to see the results from this collaborative research. Guerrilla Girls have been fighting sexism and racism within the art world since 1985. "The Male Graze" is a new initiative in  this continuous fight against female objectification for the sake of men’s  pleasure. But what have we learnt so far during this project? Let's recap!

1. Good artists = Bad Behaviour

First, not all good artists have inadequate behaviour- of course! But the names that the Guerrilla Girls exposed were quite shocking. We were particularly shocked by how Lucian Freud viewed  and treated women throughout his career. Beyond the fact that he conceived 14 children with six different women, Freud allegedly said, "women go downhill after 16", and he enjoyed painting his underaged daughters naked. Indeed, he appears to have been involved in some quite questionable behaviour. 

Other shocking names were revealed, such as Picasso, Pollock, Kooning and Hopper. These names are incredibly famous, yet all were violent towards their wives. 

2. Museum's labels hide male bad behaviour

Lots of people think that museums are supposedly transparent places where you can safely learn about art. Yet, Guerrilla Girls have shown us that this is not always entirely true. Like any of us, art institutions struggle to decide if it is right to expose the true personality and life of all these admired male artists. So far, most have opted to portray a neutral side of the story. Guerrilla Girls are instead proposing more transparent labels with detailed information about how women were mistreated to create such paintings. 

3. Art teachers abuse female students

We were shocked by learning about Lucian Freud's reputation of abusing female students at Slade School of Art. Guerrilla Girls exposed how Freud, and many other artists such as Chuck Close, objectified their students by often touching their bodies without consent, forcing relationships, and abusing them afterwards. Art schools have been a crucial starting point in shaping how women and the female body are viewed within the art world. For instance, art schools can be seen to play a role in perpetuating female objectification through the typically lopsided distribution between female and male models requested for anatomy drawing classes.  

We are curious to see what you think about what you learnt with the Guerrilla Girls so far. We have some burning questions for you: should an artist's life or behaviours be taken into consideration when evaluating an artist and his/her work ? Is art less valuable if we find out the artist engaged in poor/questionable behaviors? 


While you are here, tell us which one is your favourite section about “The Male Graze”.


#guerrillagirls #themalegraze #artnight #femaleartists #malegaze #lucianfreud #picasso

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Comments (13)
  • I think Guerrilla Girls work is so important to our society and I think since they emerged in the 80s that things really changed. We are still fighting for equality but we are slowly getting better

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    • Oh I also enjoyed seeing how flesh has been portrayed throughout history. It is quite interesting

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      • It is quite a powerful section, I would say

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      • This is a super delicate topic and extremely hard to put into a context that doesn't become offensive or that is going seem wired.

        First consideration is around the evolution of the moral. What is racist today, was normal 10 years ago. 

        Until up the mid '50s was normal to marry a girl that was 14 (and even younger), and today is of course a big scandal. 

        Where do you draw the line?

        Imo if an artist today does any abuse (age, gender, discrimination etc) should be purged by the art world. Most of the artistic and economic value in the contemporary art lays on the artist reputation and his story. If you destroy your reputation you destroy also your market

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        • This reminds me of Philip Guston's controversy and his cancelled show at TATE. I mean, hiding controversial artists is not doing any good either because we are technically hiding history. And we have to look at history so that we can do better in the future. In that sense, I do think Guerrilla Girls museum labels proposal is incredibly useful because museums should expose these facts about artists. Thou, we should be careful. It is no ones place to "cancel" any artist reputation ...

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          • Yes, exactly! We don't want to be like "so now let's cancel Freud bc he did and that" . I mean he is still a remarkable artist for his technique

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            • Chris JS I think that the fact that it was 'normal' to marry a 14 y.o. girl back in the 50s doesn't mean that it was the right thing to do. I don't think that these children wished to be in an arranged marriage.

              The point of the Guerrilla Girls is that this information should be part of the discourse about the artist

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            • Consideration should be given for both historical and contemporary attitudes to abuse, exploitation and similar. As an art lover I'd like to know the truth about the artists and their behaviour/s. It may influence my feelings about the artist, however, I'd consider the artist and their art in context and we could even view the works differently with the new historical information. There will be some who may change their minds about the artist or a particular collection but I'm not sure galleries or exhibitions will empty.

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              • I think collectors/investors look at these controversy as rewarding thing, you know? Like they know that there is a certain hype, or that people talk about that artist a lot, it means that potentially you will double its price in a few years. So in a sense, controversy sells

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                • I completely agree Tanya and isn't it always the case that there will never be anything about which 100% of people will agree? We all see different things; interpretations of a piece are ultimately based on the ideological influences of our individual society and also parental or peer group views,  beliefs and morals. 

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                  • Tania Teixeira it depends on the situation and context because I don't think that every controversy is a 'good' one for the market. I agree with Natters: our interpretations of artworks, stories, situations differ according to our upbringing, culture, etc. It would be great to have the full picture about the artist and his story and let the viewers decide whether they want to engage with his works or not. Transparency is key wink

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