Cultural bias heavily discounts female artwork

Art buyers and investors pay female artists up to 50% less for their work compared to men on average, latest academic research has found.

A study of more than a million art auction sales across 40 years found a 47.6% price gap between male and female artists across all sales.

Co-author of the paper, Is Gender in the Eye of the Beholder?, University of Technology Sydney associate professor Marco Navone said after looking at sales of artworks by 67,000 artists and even taking away sales of more than $1 million, there was still a 29% discount for female artists.

"Our results reveal the struggle and cultural bias facing female artists in getting recognition and true compensation for their work," he said.

The researchers found the price gap for female artists was greater in countries that experience years of gender inequality, and conversely narrowed as gender inequality decreased, suggesting cultural attitudes towards women are a key factor.

To further understand these reasons behind the price difference, the researchers conducted two experiments: The first canvassed 1000 people to guess the artist's gender for 10 pieces, half of which were painted by women, then rate how much they liked the paintings on a scale of one to 10.

The results showed participants were unable to accurately guess the artist's gender by looking at the painting, but artworks perceived to be painted by women rated lower by participants who were male, affluent and visit art galleries.

In the second experiment, the researchers showed 2000 people a painting with either a male or a female artist's name randomly assigned to the artwork, and asked them to rate the painting.

To avoid associating fake artist names with real paintings, the researchers 'created' the paintings using an artificial intelligence application that converts a photo into a painting.

Most people rated the artworks equally, but wealthy individuals who visit art galleries frequently - those who would typically buy art at auction - gave the painting a lower rating when it was associated with a female name.

"These results reveal the struggle female artists face to have their art valued on equal footing with male artists, and suggest that policies to reduce gender inequality may improve outcomes for female artists," co-author and University of New South Wales professor of finance Rachel Adams said.

Read more: Female artCultural biasFemale artworkMarco NavoneUniversity of Technology SydneyUTS
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