Auction houses ditch ‘art girls’ as sex fails to sell

A member of Christie’s staff poses for pictures next to Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting in London October 24, 2017. — Reuters pic
A member of Christie’s staff poses for pictures next to Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting in London October 24, 2017. — Reuters pic

LONDON, June 5 — Two of the world’s oldest auction houses have scrapped the practice of only using only female staff to pose beside their artworks, in the latest indication that sexism doesn’t sell.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s both said they were now relying on male employees to pose in promotional shots of artworks sent out to potential bidders before an auction.

The move was made public after the artnet.com website published an article mocking the practice under the headline “Is It Even Possible to Comprehend a Work of Art Without Seeing a Woman Next to It (for Scale)?”

“Just as we deal with a huge range of art, so too we want to ensure it is shown to our audiences around the world in as varied and engaging a way as possible,” a Sotheby’s spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation as she confirmed the move.

Christie’s said the media and photographers used to specifically ask that there be female employees in shot, a request it would no longer accomodate as a matter of course.

Artist and senior lecturer of photography at the University of Derby, Gemma Marmalade, said the decision was long overdue.

“The cliche of the passively observing, most commonly youthful, white, middle-class, heteronormative female art viewer as a stock photographic ‘preview’ image of the market has existed far too long,” she said.

Demand for art made by women is on the rise according to the 2018 Art Market Report by auction search engine Barnebys. — Thomson Reuters Foundation