The Guerrilla Girls are an activist group targeting sexism, racism, classism, and tokenism within the art world. Their aim is to hold curators, collectors, critics, and art dealers accountable for participating in prejudiced museum practices, such as the failure to include women or people of color from museum exhibitions. The Guerrilla Girls choose to remain anonymous, sporting gorilla masks to hide their identities and using pseudonyms that are referential to historic female artists, insisting that by doing so they are able to focus public attention away from themselves and onto the critical issues they aim to fight.
The feminist group formed in the spring of 1985 in response to the New York MoMA’s exhibition entitled “An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture,” which claimed to feature the most important painters and sculptors of contemporary art. Of the 165 artists featured in the exhibition, only a mere 13 were female. The number of artists of color was even fewer—none of which were women. The blatant inequality of the exhibition sparked protests that led to the creation of the Guerilla Girls.
Since their inception, the Guerilla Girls have publicly spoken out against many art institutions for their participation in the underrepresentation and objectification of women. In 1989 the group set out on a covert mission to observe the male to female subject ratio in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of New York. They published their findings, famously declaring that of the Met’s 1989 public collection in the Modern Art Department, women artists produced less than 5% of the works shown, and yet an overwhelming 85% of the nudes were female.
The Guerilla Girls continue to protest inequality, stating that what is next for the group is more creative complaining, more interventions, and more resistance.