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Ella Kruglyanskaya painting
"The Trench", 2013 – Ella Kruglyanskaya is one of the artists beating back the patriarchyCourtesy of Ella Kruglyanskaya /

How to survive as a female artist

Curator Sarah McCrory gives her tips on how to paddle through the patriarchy

This article is part of a series on art today to support the Dazed x Converse Emerging Artists Award  Check out the rest of content here and make sure to visit the Royal Academy in London before 17th May to see all the work IRL. 

With streams of stats showing female artists are underrepresented in spaces from museums to biennials it seems the art scene is still a boys' club. In conjunction with the Converse and Dazed Emerging Artists Award 2015 we are giving voice to an issue that needs attention to fuel change – how to survive as a female artist – in a male saturated art world.

Curator Sarah McCrory, maverick Artistic Director of Glasgow International Festival, Emerging Artists Award judge, and impassioned supporter of female talent – some of her favourites include Ella Kruglyanskaya, Anicka Yi, and Amie Siegel – sets out her views on women in the art world. Check out her tips on how to blaze your own way, shake things up and get represented.


“I think the inequalities still faced by women artist suggest that anger, raging from the mild kind that spurs on activity, through to outright fury is pretty reasonable. I can go from irie to ireful in 0-10 seconds, circumstance dependent.”


“Personally, a fault of my own has been a lack of awareness when being treated adversely because I didn’t think I was the type of person that would be discriminated against. So keeping a close eye on how your colleagues are being treated in comparison (male and otherwise) is probably a good idea. And, it’s easy to say but sometimes not to do, be supportive of your peers.”


“There’s an interesting Facebook group at present, which is quite closed and discreet, but it’s forming a platform for discussion around how to deal with blatant disregard for proportional representation/sexism and sometimes horrific behaviour – sexual harassment or bullying. By being part of a self-initiated platform, these issues are shared and discussed.”

“I’m baffled by curators who don’t even think about how they are representing aspects of society so narrow-mindedly” – Sarah McCrory


“Collaborative activity is often levelled at women artists as a way of banding together, but I also think it’s a quality attributed to women as a lazy stereotype – if a woman wants to go it alone and eschew ideas of community then fair enough. Community and collaboration are great, but if male artists are allowed to sail alone, so should women be.”


“I think men and women artists should always look to find spaces to do their own thing with their peers, friends and artists with whom they have ideas in common. If good and exciting things are happening at a grassroots level, curators will hear about them and follow up. I think artists underestimate curators in that respect.”


“I think considering a gender balance within a programme or exhibition isn’t too much of a challenge. I’m baffled by curators who don’t even think about how they are representing aspects of society so narrow-mindedly. Especially when they're spending public money. This also goes for other representations of society of course – including ethnic and socio-economic diversity.”

The Emerging Artists Award 2015 is free entry and is open from 18 April to 17 May at Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts