Gain the confidence to ask for more, study the finances, and hire a manager to sell your work
Conversations under the gender lens make me uncomfortable, especially when they revolve around art, for, after all, art is supposed to be a space of abundance and abandonment, right? But then, it is one topic that is often overlooked, sometimes because of lack of knowledge or a platform. So, when World Art Dubai (2021) opened the doors to a high-tea to discuss the female perspective on art, I was happy to play the moderator for the discussion at this recently concluded seventh edition of the region’s most accessible and affordable fair. My panellists for the same were Tanya Ashraf, owner, fashion designer of ROXX Fashion and a model; Zainab Ahmed, a senior finance professional with 16 years of experience in investment banking; and Reema Karram; head of Art Consultancy, Kieferle Art. The event was an exclusive invite-by only for 25 ladies, and we kick-started with the obvious -- is there something as a male/ female perspective on arts, or can our perspective be gender-neutral? Yes, agreed the two panellists, whilst Zainab asserted that just as there can be a young and old perspective on art, there can be a male and female as well. Point taken.
Over hot cups of tea and tiny cakes, when Zainab shared her experiences of working in a male-dominated field, the conversation moved to how 9 out of ten times male professionals don’t have to prove their qualifications to clients, and almost everyone agreed to it. The ladies in attendance confessed to self-doubt creeping in at times to which Reema in her cheerful way reminded us how art was always a male’s field. As she quoted names from the past, we were taken to the era when females practised the art form disguised as males.
Later, between anecdotes and facts, a guest pointed out artworks by the male artists are priced higher than that by the female artists, and questions on the art gap and how should one put a price tag on a labour of love dominated the remaining part of the tea. Another guest/artist was quick to add how the females do hesitate to ask for higher prices for their works. Now when females get together, they are quick to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, so it was natural for them to see what needs to be fixed. Reema agreed on the inability to put a price to a work of passion and hard work, Zainab pointed out the need for women to pick up lessons in finance, whilst Tanya suggested that all creators hire managers to sell their work, for it gets tough to part with your work or sell it by yourself.
By the end of it, it did seem like a start of a dialogue to make a difference. So then, here’s to a gender shift on the canvasses, in the galleries, and beyond. Yes, the world that we live in has always treated artists as 'lesser' because they chose to pursue an artistic life, and when the artist is a female the story does take an unexpected turn; but one can only hope the dialogue continues and as female artists learn to ask for more for their artworks, genders aside we’re willing to pay more as well.
P.S: A huge thanks and round of applause for the World Art Dubai curators: Samar Kamel, Batool Jafri and Petra Kaltenbach, for taking the initiative to make this event happen and start an important dialogue.