Who are the Guerrilla Girls?

March 24, 2022

The Guerrilla Girls are a group of renegade women who, fed up with the bias against women and people of color in the art world, decided to make waves in the art industry.

Does Its Anonymity Make Them More Valuable?

The anonymous group of feminist artist-activists, started by Frida Kahlo (the unknown alter ego), officially began in 1985.The Guerrilla Girls may be an anonymous group, but that doesn’t make them less appealing. In fact, in 2021, The Guerilla Girls had three pieces at auction, all sold above the estimate, with realized prices at over $10,000 per piece.

Mediumsposters, books, billboards, public appearances
MovementsFeminist Art, Street, and Graffiti Art, Public Art, Contemporary Art

Do Women Have to be Naked to Get into the Museum?

It all began in 1984 when Frida Kahlo (an alter ego) noticed that there were only 17 female artists out of 200 at an international show at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Moreover, she noted that there were even fewer artists of color.

That year, Kahlo and a small group of protestors realized they had the power to change the art world’s bias with guerilla art. A year later, in 1985, Guerrilla Girls was officially born with a mission to promote feminist art.

The Guerrilla Girls is known for their feminist art posters, often using humor and shock for reaction purposes. Kahlo realized that “If you can make someone who disagrees with you… laugh at an issue, you kind of have a hook inside their brain. And when you got their attention…you have another chance to change their minds.”

The group’s first color poster attacked MOMA’s lack of female artists. The text read, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?” and included data collected inside the museum, which they hilariously dubbed the “weenie count.” In short, the “weenie count” compared the number of male and female artists and the male and female subjects. Not surprisingly, the number of male artists overwhelmed the number of female artists, yet the subjects of the paintings or sculptures were almost always female. Hence the text on the Guerilla Girls’ poster.

The anonymity of the group started from the beginning, but the gorilla masks came later, almost by accident. As the story goes, a founding member of the group took notes during a meeting and misspelled “guerrilla” as “gorilla.” It was then that the idea of wearing gorilla masks was born.

Artistic Style and Process of the Guerrilla Girls

Their style is considered anything but traditional. Jennifer S. Musawwir of DailyArt Magazine describes their art objectives as “relentless in-your-face tactics,” but that’s precisely what the Guerrilla Girls try to accomplish with their guerilla art.

“From the very beginning, we knew that we had to do something new to get people’s attention. We had to be provocative and get people a little shaken up,” Khalo said when asked about the group’s mission.

Notable Awards

Over thirty years, the Guerrilla Girls won many notable awards for their guerilla art, including the following:

  • Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award For The Arts, 2010
  • Distinguished Feminist Award, first time granted by the College Art Association, 2009
  • Artist of the Year Award, New York City Art Teachers Association, 2007
  • “Courageous Resister Award,” Refuse and Resist, New York City, NY, 1996
  • Annual New York Magazine “Life of the City” Award, 1991
  • Named a “Power That Will Be” by New York Magazine

Featured Works

Do Women Have to Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum (1989) lithograph.

The Guerilla Girls did this piece in response to data collected that showed less than 5% of the artists in the museums are women, yet 85% of the nudes are female. The text on the poster reads, ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?’ above a reclining naked woman wearing a gorilla mask.

Estrogen Bomb (2014). Color offset lithograph

This piece is a humorous take on feminism as the text reads, “The Guerrilla Girls think the world needs a new weapon: The Estrogen Bomb.” The text says, “Drop it on the superpowers and the guys in charge will throw down their big guns, hug each other, apologize, and start to work on human rights, education, healthcare, and an end to income equality.”

Dearest Art Collector (1986) Screenprint on paper

Dearest Art Collector takes the form of an enlarged handwritten letter. It is addressed to an anonymous ‘Dearest Art Collector’ and states the Guerilla Girls’ confidence in collecting more art by women. Written in cursive handwriting on a pink background, the letter includes a flower with a sad face at the top.

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