Photo: Recontres d’Arles.

Cultural Figures Criticize Gender Disparity at Rencontres d’Arles in Open Letter

Leading cultural figures are up in arms over the gender disparity of artists featured in the 2018 edition of the annual photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles, which is held every summer in Arles in the south of France. An open letter published by Libération on Monday, September 3, claims that out of the fifteen major monographic exhibitions mounted for the event only three include works made by female artists.

The signatories of the letter—which include the Whitechapel Gallery’s Iwona Blazwick and Susan Collins; the director of London’s Slade School of Fine Art; and artists Victor Burgin, Orlan, and Martha Rosler—also accuse festival director Sam Stourdzé of perpetuating an “androcentric vision of art.” Of the last forty-nine iterations of the festival, only three editions were led by women.

The letter reads: “You tell us that things will be done gradually. Women artists do not have more time to lose than their colleagues. Like them, they need means, visibility, recognition, right now. It is now and not tomorrow that you must give them their rightful place . . . The success of the Rencontres d'Arles, be sure, will not suffer.”

It concludes by demanding that the 2019 edition of the festival distribute finances and production and communication resources equally among the participating artists and urges the organizers to work toward gender equalty. The most recent iteration of Rencontres d’Arles opened on July 2 and will run through September 23.