Artist Martha Rosler has been chosen as the first recipient of The New Foundation Seattle‘s biennial $100K prize, which is presented to a US-based, female artist for her achievements in art and her practice. In addition to supporting the artist’s work monetarily, TNF Seattle will organize programs throughout 2016 featuring Rosler in conjunction with other organization, including the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Public Library and the University of Washington’s School of Art + Art History + Design.
The prize was spearheaded by the foundation’s founder and President Shari D. Behnke and founding director Yoko Ott on the notion that the empowerment of artists can bring social change, and the fact there is still a lack of parity between men and women in the art world—from representation in galleries and museums, to funding, to the executive positions held at top-tier organizations. For those who want numbers, an article from ARTnews this spring gave the facts and figures. In the plainest terms:
Discrimination against women at the top trickles down into every aspect of the art world—gallery representation, auction price differentials, press coverage, and inclusion in permanent-collection displays and solo-exhibition programs. A glance at the past few years of special-exhibition schedules at major art institutions in the United States, for instance, especially the presentation of solo shows, reveals the continued prevalence of gender disparity. Of all the solo exhibitions since 2007 at the Whitney Museum, 29 percent went to women artists. Some statistics have improved. In the year 2000, the Guggenheim in New York had zero solo shows by women. In 2014, 14 percent of the solo exhibitions were by women.
Martha Rosler works with a vast range of media, but her goal is consistently to increase visibility and empathy for pressing social issues. Her piece If You Lived Here focuses on homelessness and became the centerpiece for programming in 2016 through the New Foundation Seattle. Pieces like this are timely in Seattle: Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine both recently declared of a state of emergency in Seattle regarding homelessness; the city has sanctioned its first homeless encampments (Nickelsville Ballard and a camp in Interbay), and is allotting a one time-budget of $7.5 million to get these and other camps established for the estimated 3,000 people sleeping on the streets in Seattle.
A more permanent solution will require more than tents and nano-housing (which, in Ballard, has some neighbors quite upset.) Hearts and minds will need to come together in bigger ways, making Martha Rosler’s work and the efforts of the New Foundation Seattle deeply relevant and a welcome intersection of art and social justice in the city.
Check out the New Foundation Seattle’s year-long schedule of Martha Rosler’s work around the city.