By Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

Diversity in Art: Has the Art World Become More Inclusive?

5 min readDec 2, 2019

It seems that after years of neglecting certain groups of artists (e.g. female artists, artists of color, LGBTQ artists…), the art world is finally ready to embrace them. Art venues are organizing exhibitions focusing on their work, auction prices reach new heights and long-neglected artists are finally getting overdue recognition. Although the art world is making some big steps in the right direction, when it comes to inclusion, there’s still a long way to go and plenty of challenges ahead.

Jean-Michelle Basquiat via Sotheby’s

Breaking the Auction Records for Artists of Color, Female and LGBTQ Artists

In the past few years, female artists, artists of color and LGBTQ artists have made some real breakthroughs at auctions. In 2018, gay artist David Hockney became the most expensive living artist, when one of his paintings reached a staggering $90.3 million price. Jenny Saville’s monumental nude set a new auction record for living female artists, while Kerry James Marshall’s artwork Past Times, became the most expensive work by a living African American artist.

Recent auction success led many to think that the time has finally come for underrepresented artists to have their long-awaited recognition. However, even today, high price tags are an exception rather than the rule. The research conducted by Artnet showed that works by African American artists account for a mere 1.2% of the global auction market, while works by women amount to just 2% of auction sales.

To make things even worse, the money usually goes to a handful of well-established artists, leaving emerging and mid-career artists empty-handed. For example, the top five bestselling women (Yayoi Kusama, Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Agnes Martin) account for 40% of all purchases of women’s works. And the money spent on works by Jean-Michel Basquiat surpasses the funds spent on all other African American artists combined, which doesn’t exactly contribute to the diversity in the art market. But why is it so difficult for these artists to gain recognition?


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