Can you name five women artists?
The prompt seems simple enough ― even a casual fan of art history can conjure the name Frida Kahlo, right? OK, if you’re stumbling already, it probably won’t take you long to remember the name Georgia O’Keeffe. [Pause.] Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’re familiar with Yayoi Kusama, arguably the world’s most famous living artist.
But who would you name next? Really, think about it.
If dozens of male artists’ names are running through your head, you’re not alone. Pick up a fine arts textbook and you’ll quickly understand why it’s easier to remember hordes of Dutch and Italian men than five female artists. Thankfully, with the advent of the internet, you no longer have to rely solely on imbalanced textbooks for your regular intake of art history.
The NMWA, located in Washington, D.C., describes itself as “the world’s only major museum solely dedicated to celebrating the creative contributions of women.” Beginning on March 1, the museum will use the hashtag #5WomenArtists to challenge social media users to fulfill the prompt and flood the internet with the names of not just five, but hopefully hundreds of iconic women artists who’ve made their mark throughout history.
It’s no secret that statistics tell a bleak story when it comes to representation in the art world. According to the NMWA, work by women artists makes up only 3 to 5 percent of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe.
“The campaign’s goal is to reinforce the numerous conversations around the globe about gender parity in the arts,” a representative for the museum wrote in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“When we’ve asked people, they’re often shocked by how difficult it was to name five women artists off the top of their heads,” Amy Mannarino, NMWA’s director of communications and marketing, explained to The Washington City Paper. “We hope that moment of shock will inspire people to share the challenge and start questioning why the disparity exists and persists.”
Last year, nearly 400 art museums, libraries and galleries from 20 countries participated in the campaign, with more than 11,000 individuals joining in across social media. This year, over 150 institutions from 41 states in the U.S., 16 countries and five continents have already signed on as contributors in 2017, helping to spread the #5WomenArtists challenge far and wide.
If you’d like to participate in the hashtag campaign, there are plenty of resources online that can help you to bring awareness to artists beyond Kahlo, O’Keeffe and Kusama. In 2016, HuffPost Arts & Culture published an exhaustive list of 101 women artists who deserve your attention ― and we’ll be updating that list for International Women’s Day this year. Just last week, during Black History Month, we compiled a tribute to nine black women artists who’ve been largely ignored by historians, working with museums to celebrate the individuals present in their own permanent collections.