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Activist Art Group Guerrilla Girls Returns to MoMA with Subversive Domestic Merchandise

  • Guerilla Girls MoMA
  • Guerilla Girls MoMA
  • Guerilla Girls MoMA
October 28, 2015
Anika Dačić graduated in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade and is currently pursuing MA in Literary and Cultural Studies. Her interests lie in social and cultural aspects of contemporary art production and she especially enjoys writing about street and urban art. Likes to knit, play adventure video games and host quiz nights at a local bar.

The legendary activist group Guerrilla Girls became widely known and respected in the art world after their protest in front of Museum of Modern Art in 1985. These masked women shocked the art community with their provocative posters and outrageous slogans, and they have been fighting discrimination and sexism in the art institutions ever since. However, we have to wonder if they have lost their initial momentum in recent times. The reason we are posing the question is the recent turn of events and the fact that Guerrilla Girls are returning to the same institution they once protested against with a series of domestic art products which will be on sale at MoMA Design and Book store.

Guerilla Girls MoMA
Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum – Iconic poster that triggered many controversies over the years. Photo via Wikipedia

Guerrilla Girls Shaking the Foundation of Art Institutions

In the eighties, this group of female activists hiding their identity behind the gorilla masks was one of the most influential art activist groups. Their goal was to draw attention to the inequality in the art world and discrimination of female artists and artist of color. With a series of public art interventions, posters, billboards, stickers and public artworks, they have raised their voice in protest, demanding the better status for women in the contemporary arts community. Their politically charged expressions were aimed towards the most influential institutions such art Met. Museum and MoMA in particular. In 1984, MoMa held the exhibition which was supposed to be the comprehensive survey of the most important international artists of the world. Among 169 artists, only 13 of them were women which triggered the reaction from the Guerrilla Girls and opened a dialogue about the issues of sexism within the art world.

Guerilla Girls MoMA
Guerilla Girls – Advantages of Being a Woman Artist Tea Towel

Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum?

Possibly one of the most important questions asked by the Guerrilla Girls was the one printed on what is now their iconic poster – Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum? This was a response to the fact that only 5% of the artists represented were women, but 85% percent of the nudes were female nudes. This slogan was later used on various occasions and in the various alteration in the pop culture. However, the most important thing for our story is that it became a part of the Guerrilla Girls merchandise and souvenirs such as mugs and totes for instance. Even more ironic is the fact that this souvenirs imprinted with political feminist slogans will now be offered for sale at no other place than MoMa, the very same institution responsible for the formation of the group and their years of anti-discriminatory work.

Guerilla Girls MoMA
Guerilla Girls Merchendise

Can You Truly Fight Discrimination with Hankies?

So, the question of the day is: Have Guerrilla Girls gone soft in their critique, or have they found the ultimate way of spreading their messages to the wider audience. In recent times Guerrilla Girls have been collaborating with Third Drawer Down Studio, creating the line of domestic products like hankies, tea towels and mugs which bring the legendary slogans of the group from that iconic question whether women have to be naked to get into the Met, to the ironic Advantages of being a Woman Artist statement. The products can be purchased for a reasonable price, as Guerrilla Girls are still not interested in becoming a part of the art market and want to democratize their art. But given the fact that gender inequality is still a major problem in the art world, where female artists are still earning way less than their male peers and awaiting for the wider exposure of their work, can a mug or a pink towel sold as a MoMA souvenir really be that helpful in their fight for equality? And I personally have to wonder is domestic products are the right way to go, especially if you consider the historic connection between women and the context of the household. Perhaps, it can be interpreted as irony, but I’ll let you decide.

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Featured images:

Guerilla Girls. Photo via news.uga.edu

Guerilla Girls – Advantages of Being a Woman Artist Tea Towel

Guerilla Girls – Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum Mugs

All images courtesy of Third Drawer Down Studio unless credited otherwise.