By Charlotte Burns & Julia Halperin
We gathered and examined data from 31 museums across the United States for the 12-year period between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2020. We looked at the total number of works that entered the museums’ permanent collections and, within that, the total number of works by female-identifying artists; the total number of works by Black American artists; and the crossover, of the total number of works by Black American female-identifying artists.
To better understand how these works entered into museums’ collections, we also gathered data about what proportion were gifts or purchases.
We included both purchases and donations of art but excluded promised gifts. We also counted solo exhibitions dedicated to the work of female-identifying artists, Black American artists, and female-identifying Black American artists and thematic group exhibitions featuring mostly work by each of these three groups (51% or more).
We have complete acquisition and exhibition data for 29 museums. We have nine years’ worth for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which opened in 2011. The Museum of Modern Art stopped making its acquisitions data public after its 2019 financial filing and declined to share further information.
We defined female as any artist who identifies herself as a woman. Artists who are nonbinary and do not self-identify as female are not included. We counted collectives or companies whose founding members were majority female, as well as work designed by women but not necessarily manufactured by them. Unnamed or unknown artists who the museums believe are very likely to have been women were included in our study.
We define Black American as an individual of African or Afro-Caribbean descent who was born in, raised in, or currently resides in the United States. We counted collectives or companies whose founding members were majority Black American, as well as work designed by Black Americans but not necessarily manufactured by them. Unnamed or unknown artists who the museums believe are very likely to have been Black Americans were included in our study.
The vast majority of the information was provided by the institutions themselves and verified by our research team. This means the data reflects each museum’s distinct record-keeping practices. Some, for example, record print or photography portfolios as one object, while others count each individual page in the portfolio as a separate acquisition. In select cases where museums were unable or unwilling to provide a full data set, we gathered the data manually (as was the case for the Museum of Modern Art).
We deliberately sought a mix of institutions in terms of budget, focus, attendance, and location. We also examined supplementary information about fundraising, staff, and attendance from the most recent fiscal year for 19 museums, drawn from their cultural data profile and provided by SMU DataArts Research.
The museums we examined are, in alphabetical order: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Buffalo AKG Art Museum; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Dia Art Foundation; the Hammer Museum; the High Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; the National Gallery of Art; the National Portrait Gallery; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; the New Orleans Museum of Art; the North Carolina Museum of Art; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Pérez Art Museum Miami; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Seattle Art Museum; the Toledo Museum of Art; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco provided exhibition data but not acquisitions data.
Lobus, our technology partner, worked with us to compile, clean, and sort the museum data. Additional data support came via our research collaborations: Deirdre Harkins, a research and data fellow at Ithaka S+R and the Black Trustees Alliance, and Marissa Del Toro, an independent curator working with Museums Moving Forward. SMU DataArts Research analyzed the exhibition data. Liam Sweeney and Georgia Stylianides analyzed the acquisitions data. Data visuals were created by Nehema Kariuki.
The auction market data collection was completed by the artnet Price Database and analyzed with the help of Mia Fernandez. It reflects auction results from more than 400 auction houses worldwide between January 1, 2008 to June 30, 2022. All sales prices are adjusted to include the buyer’s premium. Price data from previous years has not been adjusted for inflation unless otherwise noted. All results are logged in the currency native to the auction house where the sale took place, then converted to U.S. dollars based on the exchange rate on the day of the sale.
Genres are defined as follows: Old Masters (artists born between 1250 and 1820); Impressionist and Modern (artists born between 1821 and 1910); Post War and Contemporary (artists born between 1911 and 1974); Ultra-Contemporary (artists born in 1975 and later).
This project relies deeply on collaboration. We would like to first thank the participating museums, who took on the considerable burden of pulling together and sharing their data.
We would like to give special thanks to our funding partner UBS, without whose support we could not have commissioned such ambitious editorial. For their additional financial support, we would also like to thank Sadie Coles HQ and Anthony Meier. Thank you as well to our contributors for their time and invaluable insights.
We have deep gratitude to our partners, many of whom gave their time pro bono or at heavily discounted rates, recognizing the non-profit nature of the work. These include our technology partner Lobus; our market analysis and media partner, Artnet; our market data analyst, Mia Fernandez; our museum data analyst, Georgia Stylianides; and our data visuals creator Nehema Kariuki. Additional research and analysis from Liam Sweeney and legal advice from Olsoff Cahill Cossu LLP. Hannah Nathans designed our logo.
We are indebted to our research collaborators SMU DataArts, Museums Moving Forward, and the Black Trustee Alliance. These organizations and the individuals running them have each enriched this project in innumerable ways.