This exhibition features thirteen politically charged posters that showcase the history of the Guerrilla Girls’ activism and encourage viewers to question the ethics of the art world. Curated by twelve current students, the exhibition was produced through the J-term course “Art, Performance, and Activism” taught by Chief Curator Emmie Donadio.
From the time of their first appearance in New York in 1985, the Guerrilla Girls have seen themselves as the “conscience of the art world.” This band of anonymous female artists undertook the task of exposing discrimination in the art world. They utilized bold statistics to illustrate inequality, and they plastered posters that mimicked advertising strategies with these facts in the trendy neighborhood of art galleries in Manhattan’s Soho district. Although they began by tackling issues of gender inequality specifically in the art world, the Guerrilla Girls expanded their mission to advocate for fair representation of women of color and their targeted institutions moved beyond the art world to New York’s theater world, Hollywood, and art exhibitions on every continent.
Guerrilla Girls (American, active since 1985), Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?, 1989, poster, 11 x 28 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art, purchase with funds provided by the Reva B. Seybolt ’72 Art Acquisition Fund, 2009.044.24
In addition to bringing light to their cause, the Guerrilla Girls themselves were brought into the public eye. To retain their anonymity amidst their growing fame, they donned gorilla masks and adopted the pseudonyms of dead women artists like “Frida Khalo” and “Kathe Kollwitz.”
The Guerrilla Girls’ decades of influence are documented in the museum’s edition of the Portfolio Compleat, Posters 1985–2008. Students in the “Art, Performance, and Activism” course used this portfolio of more than eighty posters as a primary source for their study of the history of performance art, specifically examining the impact of the Guerrilla Girls within that movement. With Donadio’s guidance they selected thirteen posters to showcase the legacy and influence of the Guerrilla Girls. The exhibition’s narrative and informational texts are all student-generated.