Research 17/021
How the Guerrilla Girls Paved the Way for Activism in the Art World

The Guerrilla Girls were a feminist protest group formed to fight discrimination against female artists and artists of color throughout the industry. To protect their identity, members of the collective wore gorilla masks, with each using the name of a dead female artist as a pseudonym.

The group was first conceived in 1984 to respond to the exhibition “International Survey of Paintings and Sculpture” held at the MoMA in New York. This particular exhibition included 165 artists, only 13 of whom were women. Inspired by great artists such as Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, the Guerrilla Girls used posters with clear visual language to convey their message in a clear and accessible manner.

In their earliest posters, the group focused mainly on New York and the lack of diversity in its art scene. They would eventually go on to widen their focus, tackling issues of racial discrimination and politics not directly linked to the art scene.

During 35 years of activity, more than 100 women joined the collective, growing to become one of the first voices to hold galleries and museums accountable for their favorability towards men. Without the Guerrilla Girls, some of the art world’s darkest corners may have never been brought to light, continuing forever as a lop-sided, male-centered shit show.