Long live Guerrilla Girls

by Abi Crompton



Let’s start with the Guerrilla Girls.

When studying Fine Art, I wrote an essay on public political art. Amongst the artists and critics were Lucy Lippard, Maria Kozic, Yayoi Kusama, and Guerrilla Girls. Never did I consider I would be working alongside these woman in my role as Director of Third Drawer Down and making their art accessible globally.

Two years of conversation with the Guerrilla Girls realised the timing was right for our first collaborative collection.

It was 2015, and I approached MoMA in New York to offer them to chance to launch the collection. It was the 40 year Anniversary of the Guerrilla Girls first “protest in response” and creation of their exhibition "An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture" [1984). Incidentally, this register of 165 artists included only 13 women.

The exhibition also celebrated the newly renovated and expanded MoMA building. The exhibition claimed to survey the era's most important painters and sculptors from 17 countries. The proportion of artists of colour was even smaller, and none were women.

MoMA loved this idea of launching the collection in the Anniversary year, the Museum where the Guerrilla Girls were born and previously having been the subject of huge criticism. The collection went “bananas” (pun intended), there was a re-enactment protest out front of MoMA and the Guerrilla Girls protested "Long live cheap art!”

In my non-curatorial words, without the Guerrilla Girls we would not be so advanced in universal feminism and the essentialism and accessible language. I love that they instil that in all women with particular attention to women artists by teaching them how to protest and make noise.

After years of shaking up the art world with posters, stickers, lectures and billboards and challenging the prominence of male artists in museums as well as general sexism and corruption in the art world, these incredible women are now exhibiting and being heard.

In 2005, the group exhibited large-format posters Welcome to the Feminist Biennale at the Venice Biennale (the first in 110 years to be overseen by women), scrutinizing 101 years of Biennale history in terms of diversity. Where Are the Women Artists of Venice? highlighted the fact that most works owned by Venice's historical museums are typically kept in storage.

Since then, the Guerrilla Girls have been invited to produce special projects for international institutions, sometimes for the very institutions they have criticized.

They have officially been heard, and officially been named as one of the most influential artists of 2016 by Artsy AND officially made me so proud to be female and continue to fight for the future.

My absolute respect for the Guerilla Girls has fuelled my mission to find a way via Third Drawer Down to have their protest merchandise available in every art museum in the world. If I can achieve that, I have done this collaboration its true justice!.

Why they rock the art world can be identified for various reasons:

  • For being feminists and spreading that message in the art world which is still a male-gazed arena;
  • Working tirelessly to banish the corruption that exists in the art world;
  • Supporting accessible art, and encouraging more people to articulate and be involved in art;
  • Via their world of art, they are ready to bat on political issues from homelessness, reproductive rights, same-sex marriages and Homeland Terror Alert in the USA.

So why do we do what we do at Third Drawer Down? It’s the knowledge we are incrementally achieving something significant that can change the world . You can be a part of this community of change in the world too. 

Abi Crompton