“Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness.” Famously uttered by the late Brian Sewell, this statement, is perhaps one of the most controversial and illuminating to be made by an art critic in the contemporary era, and yet, the sentiment can be found throughout the tradition of art history dating back to its inception. Just ask anyone to think of three famous artists from any era, and the overwhelming majority of responses are all male.
Such is the plight of two Toronto entrepreneurs who are looking to #RepaintHistory. The aptly titled startup which encompasses a fashion line, a creative community and educational talkback series, helmed by Pegah Kargar and Jessica Tan, has a specific goal in mind, to “bring recognition and awareness to forgotten female artists of the past through various mediums while supporting present and future artists to ensure this gap will not exist in the future.” Women in art have been criminally underrepresented and undervalued for centuries, lending a disproportionate and sexist disposition to the art world, #RepaintHistory looks to rectify that through raising awareness, visibility and support for past and future female artists.
Uncovering the female contemporaries of the canonical masters, from the impressionists to the Baroque, Repaint History ultimately aims to start a dialogue about sexism and representation in art. The way to do so? Increasing visibility, firstly, through clothing. Their first line is a series of T-Shirts and Blouses juxtaposing the names of famed artists such as Caravaggio and Monet alongside their lesser-known female counterparts like Artemisia Gentileschi and Berthe Morisot. Pegah hopes in making these clothes that those wearing them will be walking billboards for the forgotten female masters. “By displaying these names beside each other we are looking to spark a conversation… these women were famous artists during their day, but they weren’t written into the history books.”
The conversation for Repaint History does not stop at increasing visibility, it looks at the manifold biases in the art world towards women, entrenched within the very fabric of its tradition. The startup is keen to make these biases known and rectified stressing statistics as a form of factual material data to display these disparities women face. For instance, a recent data survey of the permanent collections of 18 prominent art museums in the U.S. found that out of over 10,000 artists, 87% are male, and 85% are white, while women working across arts professions make almost $20,000 less per year than men.
Cody is a content creator at Glossi Mag.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.