The 15 Most Successful Female Artists – Who Is Your Favorite?

International Women’s Day – a synonym for the struggle for equal rights, voting rights for women and the emancipation of women workers. But are these topics still current in today’s society? The sculpture network team asked themselves the same question and did some research on the current status of female artists in the sector of three-dimensional art

Once we started with our research it immediately became apparent how difficult it would be to answer this question online. As a result we decided to let the numbers do the talking and took advantage of the world’s largest art database in the Internet. Since being founded in 2001 ArtFacts  has been collecting data about the international art market, archiving, publishing and analyzing it. Then, using a complex algorithm, artists are ranked in relationship to one another. The algorithm is based on the fact that each exhibit has a different amount of significance in the art world. The result is known as the Artist Ranking. They say you should never believe a statistic you didn’t falsify yourself, but we were truly shocked by the result. The 15 best living female artists in the area of three-dimensional art spanned a range on the global ranking list from number 21 to number 263. That shows how poorly women are placed in this list. So we ran a cross-check and took a look at the top 15 institutions that ArtFacts names. We rooted around for a while in the program for current and future exhibits and were able to make some interesting discoveries. Although men and women are almost equally represented in group exhibits, the trend for individual exhibits clearly favors men. This seems to confirm the fact that the world of art, at least in terms of public exhibits, is clearly still dominated by men. This suspicion was further confirmed by another source.

National Museum of Women in the Arts
2019 Women's March on Washington Free Community Day
Photo by Kevin Allen, Courtesy of the NMWA

During our research we came across the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA)  – the only large museum in the world that is exclusively dedicated to championing women in the arts. The idea for the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. resulted from a simple, but rarely asked question that sounds familiar: where are all the female artists? The founders of the NMWA, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Wallace F. Holladay, began collecting art in the 1960's. Around this time the first discussions started among professionals about the under-representation of women and various ethnic groups in museums and at important art exhibits. The Holladays were some of the first people who applied this revisionist attitude to collecting and they have now been doing so for more than 20 year, collecting art by female artists. The National Museum of Women in the Arts was founded in November 1981 as a private non-profit museum. The Holladay Collection became the core of the institution’s permanent collection. The NMWA continues to advocate better representation for female artists and serves as an important center for thought leadership, community engagement and social change. The museum addresses the imbalance between the two sexes in the presentation of art by bringing to light significant female artists from the past and simultaneously promoting great women artists of today.

In order to increase awareness of this situation we have decided to initiate our own poll for the 3 favorite female artists in the category of three-dimensional art among the 15 best women artists currently alive. Join in and vote for your favorite!

  1. Rosemarie Trockel (German, born 1952) deals with feminist topics and theories of sexuality, culture and artistic production. Strongly influenced by  Joseph Beuys, she is interested in the grotesque. Thus, many of her pieces are reminiscent of late surrealism.
    Rosemarie Trockel, As far as possible (2012), Neues Museum Nürnberg


  2. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929) grew up in her parent’s home which was very strict and authoritarian. Constant pressure, rejection and alienation from her mother probably led to Kusama’s trauma that expresses itself mainly in hallucinations, pronounced fear of phallic objects, sexuality and food. Kusama sees dotted and netted patterns everywhere and is afraid of dissolving into them. With her polka dots she makes her hallucinations part of her art.
    All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
    wood, mirrors, plastic, glass, and LEDs. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver.


  3. Mona Hatoum (Palastinian, born 1952) places the body in the center of her art and uses it to show how institutional violence affects people. The artists changes the material, size relationship or function of everyday objects or adds elements to them to convey a feeling of threat which usually only surfaces upon second glance.
    Mona Hatoum, Hot Spot (stand): Installation shot of work by Mona Hatoum
    in The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. Photo, Stuart Whipps


  4. Kiki Smith (American, born 1954) critically examines a series of topics dealing with human existence: spirituality, mortality, degradation, femininity and sexuality. She is fascinated by the anatomy of the human body and by bodily fluids. In her works, which are influenced by surrealism, Smith uses excrements such as blood, semen or gall bladder bile.

    Installation view of Kiki Smith: Murmur 537 West 24th Street, New York, NY March 1–March 30, 2019
    Photography by Kyle Knodell © Kiki Smith, courtesy Pace Gallery Kiki Smith


  5. Isa Genzken (German, born 1948) is known as an absolute icon of style. As a very young child she was cast in a film, then later worked as a model and earned enough to skip the phase of being a penniless young artist. The selection and combination of various materials plays a significant role in her work - loosely based on the slogan: Everything is sculpture.

    Isa Genzken, Kunsthalle Bern, 2019, Installationsansicht, © 2019, ProLitteris Zurich.
    Fotos/Photos: Gunnar Meier. Ausstellung: 23. Februar – 28. April 2019


  6. Jenny Holzer (American, born 1950) is known for her art projects in public spaces based on text. She occupies herself with the use of language both as a form of communication as well as a means to conceal or control. Her works deals with topics such as AIDS, politics, violence, sex, the environment, feminism and power structures.
    Exhibition view: Artist Rooms: Jenny Holzer, Tate Modern,London, 2018
    © 2018 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Jack Hems


  7. Alicja Kwade (Polish, born 1979) occupies herself with the relationship between clearly marked fiction and alleged realities. In doing so she repeatedly turns our image of materials and their supposed worth upside down. Thus, obscure items of daily life or even waste products become rare antiquities, the value of which is not determined by the material.
    Alicja Kwade, Trans-For-Men, EMMA -Espoo Museum of Modern Art, 2018, Photo: Ari Karttunen / EMMA


  8. Adrian Piper (American, born 1948) is an AfroAmerican artist known for her treatment of questions about ethics, gender, class and race. Instead of consistent art criticism one encounters much more autobiographical content in her works.

    Adrian Piper. The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1-3 24.02.2017 bis 03.09.2017 Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin
  9. Sarah Lucas (British, born 1962) uses everyday materials in her work to make coarse and often inflammatory comments on the topics of sexuality, death and gender. She very often explores the relationship between male desire and the female understanding of her role.
    Sarah Lucas, Rabbit (2017; tights, cotton, chair; 114 x 51 x 68 cm).
    Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts. Photo by Jochen Littkemann.
  10. Rosa Barba (Italian, born 1972) distinguishes herself with her conceptual examination of film. Her sculptures and installations are created from a material and conceptual repertoire dealing with film, which has been analyzed, abstracted and newly defined. With her works Barba hopes to draw attention to the significance of analog technology in this digital age.
  11. Roni Horn (American, born 1955) combines in her works both female and male qualities and attempts to point out the variety in the nature of a person or thing. To do so she uses the concept of identity as something continually changeable. Accordingly, she also prefers materials that are changeable in their appearance and condition.

    Installation View, ‘Roni Horn’, Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong 2018.
    © Roni Horn. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
    Photo: JJYPHOTO


  12. Laure Prouvost (French, born 1978) processes videos and paintings in her installations, often packaged in humorous stories as well as autobiographical, fictional and real events, which she strings together with great ability. She often dedicates herself to the topics of language and mis-communication.

    Exhibition view of Laure Prouvost, “Ring, Sing and Drink for Trespassing”, Palais de Tokyo (22.06.2018 – 09.09.2018) Courtesy of the artist and Nathalie Obadia (Paris / Brussels), carlier | gebauer (Berlin), Lisson Gallery (London / New York) Photo: Aurélien Mole 


  13. Otobong Nkanga (Nigerian, born 1974) investigates the social and topographic changes in her environment. She observes their complexity and how resources such as soil and clay and their potential value are subject to regional and cultural analysis.

    Otobong Nkanga, The Breath From Fertile Grounds, 2017, Installation view, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios. Photo: Kasia Kaminska


  14. Karin Sander (German, born 1957) is known for making people see the seemingly invisible and for creating situations in which viewers complete the work. In doing so it is not just a question of transience, but also of what is actually happening in the process. She works with spatial views and perspectives, with clever displacement of reality and fleeting images which often cannot be captured.

    Karin Sander – A bis Z, Installationsansicht Haus am Waldsee, 2019, 26. Januar 2019 – 3. März 2019. Foto: Roman März


  15. Ceal Floyer (British, born 1968) works in a variety of media, still all her pieces share a humorous and ironic approach to language and the semiotics of everyday life. She consistently deals with the discourse of conceptual art, minimalism, post-minimalism, clothing and technology in her work. Ceal Floyer is often criticized for her visual rigor, which stands in stark contrast to the abundant verbal implications.

    Ceal Floyer, 150 cm, 2018. Cut tape measure, shelf, plexiglass cover. 5 x 10 x 10 cm; 1 7/8 x 3 7/8 x 3 7/8 in.

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