Archive for March, 2008

Pop quiz

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A quick quiz: Natalia Goncharova is the most successful woman in what field?

a) uneven bars in gymnastics

b) longest service as a prima ballerina

c) youngest woman player to qualify for Wimbledon

d) creator of most expensive painting by a female artist, or

e) most munitions manufactured for the USSR during the Second World War

Yes, you got it. It’s d). Or, perhaps, like me, you didn’t.

I was so surprised that I didn’t know who the most expensive female artist was that I assumed she must be a blip in an otherwise notable top six. Not really, it transpires. Depending on your household, I don’t think that Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’ Keeffe, Berthe Morisot or Agnes Martin are necessarily household names either. Cassatt and Morisot were Impressionists. O’ Keeffe painted flowers that look like vaginas and Agnes Martin was a minimalist or abstract expressionist, depending on what you want to call a series of painted grids.

I think I have heard of O’ Keeffe and I dimly remember seeing some stuff by Martin at Tate Modern once, but I couldn’t, when I first read their names, recall the titles or even visualise any of their works. Indeed, the only woman in the top six who could be considered to have stellar appeal is Frida Kahlo, the moustachioed Mexican known for her bushy-eyebrowed self-portraits (and, to a lesser extent, having an affair with Leon Trotsky).

Everyone knows that women have been historically underrepresented in visual art, but I was still suprised to learn that you have to scroll though 84 men in the bestseller list until you get to Goncharova. She is the only woman in the top 100.

The full list of most expensive female artists, according to Skate Press, goes like this:

Ranking* Artist Number of works
in Top 1000
Value of works
in Top 1000,
USD mln.
85 Natalia Goncharova 2 15.36
105 Frida Kahlo 2 10.68
137 Mary Cassatt 1 6.20
139 Georgia O’Keeffe 1 6.17
164 Berthe Morisot 1 5.17
179 Agnes Martin 1 4.74


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gil Scott Heron, the performance poet best known for The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (see here for a highbrow analysis of the song) is not the only high achiever in the Heron dynasty. His father, also called Gil, was the first black footballer to play for Glasgow Celtic. His debut, in 1949, was a minor revolution in itself.

It wasn’t televised.