Representation of male and female artists in the MoMA’s collection

I created a data visualization exploring The Artists dataset from MoMA’s open source data collection, which contains information for all the artists who have work in MoMA's collection and have been cataloged in the MoMA database.

Museums are beginning to make their collections more accessible by publishing access to their collection database online through Github. What can we learn about the representation of female artists from the information made available? Inspired by FiveThirtyEight’s article about paintings in the MoMA, I decided to plot the year works were acquired against the year they were painted. The MoMA acquired its first artworks in 1929 when the museum was established. I wanted to see how the acquisition of artwork made by male and female artists has shifted over the museums 109 year history.

Research, Data Visualization in Observable and Flourish

Side-by-side comparisons of male and female artist representation in the MoMA’s collection reveal that there are certainly efforts in recent years to acquire more works by female artists, but there’s still an enormous discrepancy between the number of male and female artists in the MoMA collection. A selection of notable works is highlighted.

A look at the number of artworks in the collection separated by male and female artists shows the vast divide in representation in the MoMA’s collection.

There remains a stark discrepancy between the number works made by male and female artists represented by the MoMA’s collection. Of course, the museum does not have the physical space to keep its entire collection on view. I believe that the selection of works on view represent a more balanced gender ratio. My next step for this project is to investigate the ratio of male and female artists currently on view at the MoMA.

About this Story
Sources: MoMA collection data from MoMA Github updated 11/14/2020; inspiration from FiveThirtyEight, data clean up in Observable, data visualizations in Flourish; guidance from Youjin Shin.