It is a well known fact that the majority of images we consume are created by men, and too often feminism is an easy target for commodification in the wider context of contemporary culture. Titled provocatively - and philosophically - Selling Sex examines this 'self-other' relationship by featuring all female artists and examining their unique relationships to sex and the female nude.
We all like to believe that the war of the sexes is less a battle and more a sophisticated dialogue. However, when you consider that only 8% of the work exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art is created by women, that the Tate’s female holdings amount to a meagre 15%, and that the statistics are similarly bleak in commercial galleries, it's a pretty shocking state of affairs. The facts suggest that the war still needs to happen.
What's more, this imbalance doesn't only exist in fine art. In fashion, major campaigns are predominantly shot by top male photographers. In film, women hold only 33% of all speaking roles and only 7% of all directors in Hollywood are women. And there remain only three industries in which women earn more money than men - pornography, prostitution and modelling. What does that tell us?
SHOWstudio decided to turn this convention on its head, offering an exhibition made up of exclusively women artists looking at sex and nudity - examining a woman's version of a woman and asking how it differs from a man’s? Is an image of a nude woman empowered in the hand of a female artist? Does it resist traditionally constructed gender roles? Does it mock a voyeuristic male gaze? Or, do we see yet more examples of the female constantly diverting her own eye, facilitating her status as the object to be looked at, as opposed to the subject doing the looking, as Laura Mulvey writes in her classic essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"?
Curated by Carrie Scott and Niamh White, Selling Sex sets out to tip the imbalance right back the other way, ghettoising work by women in their own unique female territory. We know this isn't the major survey show we would like to make happen, but, it's a start. It's a conversation. And one that we hope helps us all emerge more aware of just how male gendered our visual culture really is, and - vitally - less willing to put up with it.