Auction houses ditch 'art girls' as sex fails to sell

by Meka Beresford | @mekaberesford | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 4 June 2018 18:47 GMT

ARCHIVED PHOTO: A lighting technician with Sotheby's Rupert Barth von Wehrenalp (L) holds a flash as Sotheby's staff member Helen Collier poses for photographs next to the painting "Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino" by British artist J.M.W. Turner. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

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The move has been called long overdue

By Meka Beresford

LONDON, June 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two of the world's oldest auction houses have scrapped the practice of only using only female staff to pose beside their artworks, in the latest indication that sexism doesn't sell.

Sotheby's and Christie's both said they were now relying on male employees to pose in promotional shots of artworks sent out to potential bidders before an auction.

The move was made public after the website published an article mocking the practice under the headline "Is It Even Possible to Comprehend a Work of Art Without Seeing a Woman Next to It (for Scale)?"

"Just as we deal with a huge range of art, so too we want to ensure it is shown to our audiences around the world in as varied and engaging a way as possible," a Sotheby's spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation as she confirmed the move.

Christie's said the media and photographers used to specifically ask that there be female employees in shot, a request it would no longer accomodate as a matter of course.

Artist and senior lecturer of photography at the University of Derby, Gemma Marmalade, said the decision was long overdue.

"The cliche of the passively observing, most commonly youthful, white, middle-class, heteronormative female art viewer as a stock photographic 'preview' image of the market has existed far too long," she said.

Demand for art made by women is on the rise according to the 2018 Art Market Report by auction search engine Barnebys.

(Reporting by Meka Beresford @mekaberesford, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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