Step into one of the best art museums in the world, and most of the works you’ll see have been created by men.
The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has chosen to take a bold step to rectify this imbalance: next year, the museum will only buy works by female artists.
“To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical,” museum Director Christopher Bedford told The Baltimore Sun.
The policy applies only to works that the museum has purchased, not gifts. The number of works the museum purchases each year varies, and works are purchased on a rolling basis.
The move is part of a larger initiative launched in October called 2020 Vision, a series of 22 museum exhibits celebrating female artists. The program involves 13 solo exhibitions and 7 themed shows, with more being planned.
There are 95,000 works in the Baltimore Museum of Art, including Henri Matisse’s largest collection of works in the world.
There are 3,800 works by female artists and designers in these collections–just 4 percent of its holdings.
In 1916, two years after the founding of the museum, a portrait by Sarah Miriam Peale was given to the museum, becoming the first work of a female artist in their collection. The museum has acquired many major works by women over the past several decades, and its collection includes pieces by Mary Cassatt, Cindy Sherman, and Amy Sherald.
A 2019 survey of 18 major U.S. art museums found that 87% of artists in their collections are men, and 85% are white. Another research earlier this year showed that among the art galleries they represent, up to 10 percent of its do not have a female artist.
The BMA is not alone trying to correct the gender imbalance that has been going on for many years. In its collections, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington has 5,500 objects and presents 10 exhibits featuring women artists each year.