The Guerrilla Girls: the art-punk pioneers in challenging prejudice

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London is grey and cold today. The first real cold day of the season. And grey and cold for me means exhibition and coffee. 

I decided to go to Tate Modern and see "Andy Warhol and Guerrilla Girls".

The exhibition just started and it will be on until 16 December.


What's the exhibition about?

The exhibition "Andy Warhol and the Guerrilla Girls" is part of Media Network, that includes diverse range of works that raise questions around feminism, consumerism, and the cult celebrity. Internationally artists have responded in different ways to the impact of mass-media and communications in the past decades.


Warhol, as everyone knows, began his career as a commercial illustrator and he understood the potential of the mass-produced image. Anonymous artist group Guerrilla Girls also use striking design. They were both pioneers in challenging prejudice. And they share an interest in the visual language and strategies of advertising but use them in different ways.

Guerrilla Girls are a shifting collective of activists committed to exposing inequality in the art world. Their subversive borrowing of artworks and typefaces can be seen as a parallel to Warhol’s use of existing images.

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However, their confrontational tactics contrast with Warhol’s coolly neutral approach to contemporary culture. While the Guerrilla Girls campaign forcefully against discrimination, The Factory, Warhol’s Manhattan studio, provided a welcoming space for those who didn’t conform to the social and sexual conventions of 1960s society.


Who are the Guerrilla Girls?

The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists who remain anonymous by wearing gorilla masks and naming themselves after famous dead female artists, use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture.

The group formed in New York City in 1985 with the mission of bringing gender and racial inequality into focus within the greater arts community. They employ culture jamming in the form of posters, books, billboards, and public appearances to expose discrimination and corruption. 

It's 33 years since the Guerrilla Girls came into being, a lot has changed, and a lot hasn’t.

As they point out in their campaigns, galleries that once showed only 10% women artists now show up to 20%. New York museums that, in 1985, gave no women artists a solo exhibition – including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan and the Whitney – each gave a single woman a solo show just in the last three years.

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Over time, the stickers and posters used in their campaigns have themselves became desirable artifacts. Tate Modern has the group’s artwork as part of its permanent collection. They have shown their protest materials at the Venice Biennale. The most famous of the posters, from 1989, is that of a female nude overlaid with a gorilla mask and the slogan “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?”, protesting the fact that while 5% of the artists shown there were women, 85% of the nudes were.

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The group’s fundamental mission is still to expose sexism and racism in the art world and, while the language might have changed over the years, the underlying discrimination hasn’t.