Women artists struggle for visibility in Swiss museums

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Switzerland

Organisation: SWI swissinfo.ch

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 6 Jul 2019

Credit: Alexandra Kohler, Céline Stegmüller

Project description:

Just a quarter of Swiss museum exhibitions over the past decade have featured women artists, according to our research. We contacted 125 Swiss art museums by e-mail to ask them if they could send us a list of all the temporary, individual and collective exhibitions organised between 2008 and 2018, by gender. We received data from 73 museums, and for seven others, we were able to get the data directly on their website.

Impact reached:

It triggered a national debate on the representation of women in the art world and calls for mandatory quotas. 

Techniques/technologies used:

Here is a link to the data on the procedure, definitions, method and data analysis: koa87.github.io/2019-06-museums/?_sm_au_=iVVfSSNQN5q6vnFB 

The preprocessing and analysis of the data was conducted in the R project for statistical computing. The RMarkdown script used to generate this document and all the resulting data can be downloaded under this link: koa87.github.io/2019-06-museums/rscript.zip .

Through executing main.Rmd, the herein described process can be reproduced and this document can be generated. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

Definitions: museums resisted being compared to other museums. 

Queer artists: Since the main topic of our research is the visibility of female artists, as compared to male, we decided to adopt a binary gender definition when asking the museums for their data. However, not everybody identifies with one of these genders. Thus, when sending us the requested information, some of the museums pointed out that in the same period they exhibited queer artists as well. These artists were not included in the final numbers. 

What can others learn from this project?

Data is everywhere and can shed light on areas where institutions don’t want to provide answers.

Project links: