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Interview with AWARE Founder Camille Morineau

Camille Morineau, the co-founder and chairwoman of AWARE, explains to us the collaboration between this year’s Armory Show and AWARE.

She has worked for French public institutions for twenty years, including ten at the Centre Georges Pompidou where she curated the show elles@centrepompidou (2009-2011). The first of its kind, it presented a selection of works exclusively by women from the national museum of modern art’s collection. From 2016 to 2019, she was the director of exhibitions and collections at La Monnaie de Paris where she especially curated the exhibition: Women House (2017-2018). She was awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 2020.

What motivated this collaboration between the Armory Show and AWARE?

After 5 years of existence, our organization is aiming at getting more international : our website is already global, but we want to reach out in each country with specific events related to the time and place. The US is one of our top priorities. My aim with AWARE is to strengthen women artists’ visibility and the art market is a step in an artist’s process to recognition and her access to the main historical narrative. The partnership with Armory Show is a wonderful opportunity to approach this interesting and rather new subject: the role played recently by the art market in the recognition of women artists. There have been a few articles published about the rise of prices and general value of women artists; according to a study from 2018, only 36% of artists represented by galleries are women, and for a majority of galleries, the gender balance is below 25%. This said, numbers must not be the sole topic of analysis: too little is yet said about the risk taken by galleries when they show women artists; or they role in the academic research about these artists. Women artists have historically have had fewer galleries than men – most women artists of the 20th century had none. Many galleries have considered, and still do, that representing women artists is a risk, since works by women sold by galleries reach much lower prices than men (between 16% and 30% less). Therefore, it is important to AWARE to not only highlight compelling works by women artists, but also the galleries who represent and therefore support them.

What is the place of female artists in the 2020 edition?

When it comes to data, we have to keep in mind that nothing is set in stone yet, a few weeks before the final selection: it is natural for galleries to update their selection until the last moment before the fair. However, it seems that the general tendency of 2020 edition is striking, in a very good way: 35% of the artists announced for the fair are women, which is significantly higher than the average percentage in other art fairs (usually around 24%). Another very good piece of news is the proportion of solo shows: 45% of them will display women artists, which is very exciting. Having discovered this unusually high number of solo shows, we decided to make an event out of it, which would also be a way to underline the role of galleries in women artists’ recognition: AWARE and Armory will join to give a Prize ($10,000) to a woman artist represented by one of the solo show in the fair. A jury of experts from the contemporary art world will therefore distinguish both the quality of an artist’s work (the money goes to the artist), and the gallery’s commitment to the work (the recognition of the quality of the booth), having chosen to go against the natural gender bias of the market.

How was the AWARE walkthrough conceived within the galleries presented?

We have already collaborated with an art fair for the 2019 edition of Art Paris, in France, and I have been delighted by the overwhelming positive response we received there. As a result, we have decided to work on a similar but even more ambitious program for the Armory Show: within the fair, we have conceived a curated walkthrough enabling the public to (re-)discover the works by 25 women artists. It was crucial for me and for AWARE to have a diverse and representative sample of artists from all regions of the world, with a wide range of media and generations, but also a selection of different galleries’ profiles.

We have titled this walkthrough (Un)seen scene. The women in this selection appear to be fascinated by the question of perception, or more importantly, by what is not observable, what lies underneath the surface of things. It seems interesting, since we are ourselves in an endeavor of rendering more visible, focusing on practices whose goal is to reveal what’s hidden to the eye or to the mind. The walkthrough is organized around 4 chapters/themes.
An audio-guide will be available for the public to listen to some explanations on those works. This selection has been devised in collaboration with the galleries, and their enthusiasm for our project has been really helpful in this process.

How do you see the place of female artists in contemporary art fairs evolving?

In the Art market as a whole, women’s share has almost doubled in the past 10 years. However, disparities are striking between those artists’ prices, and discrimination is still very real when those numbers are compared to those of male artists.
Art fairs hold a special place in the art market: more than just commercial events, they are a platform for exchange and emulation between different actors of the art world. They usually incite galleries to take risks, like presenting daring works. Even though the most recent data shows that gender discrimination affects art fairs as much as any part of the art world, I feel like many of them are becoming aware of the importance of their role and their power to influence those tendencies in a positive way. I am thus thrilled to partner with the Armory Show, an institution committed to make these changes happen.

About Camille Morineau

Paris-based, Camille Morineau has worked for twenty years in public cultural institutions in France, ten of which were at the Centre Pompidou as a curator of the contemporary collections. She has been the curator of numerous exhibitions and the hanging elles@centrepompidou (2009-2011) dedicated solely to female artists from the collections of the musée national d’art moderne. She was also the curator of the comprehensive survey of Niki de Saint Phalle at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Guggenheim Bilbao and of the exhibition L’autre continent. Femmes, artistes, africaines at Museum d’histoire naturelle in Le Havre (2016). From 2016 to 2019, she was the director of exhibitions and collections at Monnaie de Paris, where she curated the exhibitions: Floor-naments (2017), Women House (2017-2018), Subodh Gupta (2018), Thomas Schütte (2019), Kiki Smith (2019-2020).

With the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.