CASE FOR SUPPORT
Women’s art across the world has gone unrecognised for long enough!
SHEILA is a national foundation that will paint women back into the history of Australian art. It will support and celebrate women artists through research projects, public awareness and advocacy campaigns, symposiums, lectures and exhibitions, and will assist the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art at The University of Western Australia.
The aim is to build an endowment fund of $2 million. The Cruthers family has made an initial donation of $600,000 to the fund. The return on the fund will allow annual grants of at least $100,000 to bring these programs to life.
Why is SHEILA needed? A walk through most Australian art museums reveals up to 80% of artworks are by men. Where is the art by women? What view of Australia would we see if art by women made up 50% of art museum displays? SHEILA aims to answer these questions.
Things are not much better for living artists. Research suggests women suffer gender imbalance in nine of 10 key areas in contemporary art. 73% of art school students are women, but they contribute only 37% of artworks on display in state collections. Less than 40% of articles in Australian art magazines are on women artists, and they feature on only 20% of their covers. Women win slightly more art prizes than men, but monetarily men win a significantly larger share of the prize pool.
SHEILA was inspired by Lady Sheila Cruthers, a visionary collector who built the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art. Gifted to the University of WA in 2007 and comprising 700 works, it’s Australia’s largest stand-alone collection of women’s art. To quote art historian Rex Butler, it is “a tremendous resource for the rethinking of Australian art”. In 2007 Lady Sheila set up a private foundation to support the Collection and in 2017 this transitioned to SHEILA A Foundation for Women in Visual Art, a public foundation that continues to support the Collection and advocate for women artists.
SHEILA gives a voice to women artists past, present and future through a wide range of projects that will unfold as resources allow. The priority projects are support of the Collection, including exhibitions and greater access; Filling the Gap: Recovering Australia’s lost women artists 1870-1960, which will rediscover generations of women artists and make their work visible; and data research such as The Countess Report, a regular count of gender equality in contemporary art, which provides data to argue for reforms that ensure today’s women artists have equal access to grant funding, commercial representation, acquisition by museums and private collectors, inclusion in major exhibitions, jobs and critical coverage.
Join us in this quest with SHEILA and the Collection as we work to overturn systemic bias and improve gender balance in all sectors of Australian art, so that women artists have equal opportunities to male artists to fulfill their talents and potential.