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How Equal is Norway's Art?

What would Norwegian museums look like if we removed all artwork by men?

30.09.2020

It's time we ensure that the art collections of the future are representative of our time.

Norway's largest public and private art collections and museums have around 130,000 works of art. More than 112,000 of those are created by men and only 10% are made by women.

In collaboration with Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, we have launched the #EqualArt campaign. The aim is to create equal conditions for artists, regardless of gender. Equal physical areas in exhibitions, equal capital, equal attention, and an equal number of exhibitions.

2020 is the year to create a new norm for art collections. We can promote more female artists in public. We want to contribute to representativeness and equality.

Are you an art collector? Sign the pledge here and commit to the following:

  • That 50% of your purchases will be by female artists from 2021 onwards.
  • That your exhibition program (for temporary solo exhibitions) will have a gender equality perspective with 50% women from 2021, in number, area, and economy over a five-year period
  • To prepare a concrete plan to improve gender balance, cultural diversity, and equality in the context of gatherings and exhibitions to ensure future representativeness and timeliness for the entire population.

Collecting the Data

We have contacted public art museums, private art museums and foundations, private collectors, and asked if they would be included in the survey. Those who have said yes have shared the number of female and male artists they have in their collections, how many works they have in total, and how many are made by female and male artists.

Art museums and private collections that have exhibition venues have also answered the gender distribution of the number of separate exhibitions. The figures are thus self-reported by the owners. Equality Check has carried out the survey, with input from Henie Onstad Kunstsenter Bergesenstiftelsen has contributed funds to carry out the work.

Results from Art Museums

17 of Norway's largest, publicly funded art museums have a total of 130,000 works. 89% of these are created by male artists. On average, there are 29 works by each male artist, and 6 works by each female artist.

In the last 5 years, about 40% of newly purchased works in public museums have been by female artists. Separate positions in the last 5 years have been equally distributed between women and men.

Results from Private Art Museums

4 of Norway's largest private art museums and sculpture parks, together have over 9,000 works. 75% of these are by male artists. On average, there are approx. 5 works by each male artist, and 5 works by each female artist. In the last 5 years, 78% of the works purchased have been created by male artists, and 63% of all solo presentations are by male artists.

Results from Foundations

We surveyed 4 of Norway's largest foundations with art collections that have a total of 5,400 works. Of these, 85% are by male artists. Also, 70% of the purchases in the last 5 years are from male artists. On average, there are 9 works per male artist, and 6 works per female artist.


In the collection of the Sparebankstiftelsen DNB, 10% of the works are made by female artists. Corporate collections among 6 of Norway's companies with art collections have a total of 2,300 works, 83% of which are by male artists.

On average, there are approximately 4 works per male artist and approximately 3 works per female artist. In the last 5 years, 69% of newly purchased works are by male artists.

Results from Private Collections

Among 9 large collections belonging to private individuals, there are a total of over 1,800 works, 76% of which are by male artists. On average, there are approximately 4 works per artist, both male and female. In the last 5 years, works have been purchased where approximately 50% are by female and 50% are by male artists in these collections.

Looking Forward

If we are to correct this imbalance, we have a way to go. While we can't rewrite historical biases, we can influence the future. We can decide how the collections are built, completed, and disseminated today and in the time to come. We can encourage more people to collect and invest in art and thus create a greater cultural diversity that is representative of our time.

How can you contribute? Share this article with art museums and anyone you know who is an art collector, upload your artwork and tag us on Instagram using the hashtag, #EqualArt. Together, we can create a more #EqualArt.

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