News / Art

Freelands aims to address underrepresentation of women in arts


Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

The representation of women in London’s commercial gallery sector has reached a new low, despite making up the majority of undergraduates in creative arts and design, according to a report published last year from The Freelands Foundation. Now, the Freelands are trying to empower women into art spaces across the UK by offering a chance to win money for a shortlisted institution and a chosen mid-career female artist to help fund new work.

The Freelands Award offers a £100,000 cash prize to a UK institution outside of London to raise the profile of a female artist. The winning institution will pay £25,000 of the total award amount to a selected artist of their choice.

The awards are fresh off the back of the foundation’s research last year which showed a disproportionality in the amount of women’s work exhibited in commercial and non commercial spaces. Only 28% of artists represented by London’s major commercial galleries in 2017 were women, while only 3% of auction lots in the top ten highest-grossing sales of each of the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sales in 2017 were by women artists.

The report also found that things may be getting worse. During Frieze Week 2017, only 21% of the shows were by women, a figure which has been halved from 42% in 2016. Though it also showed that outside London the picture appeared to be slightly brighter, with a 17% rise in female solo shows by women in non-commercial galleries outside London since 2016. The awards this year will go some way into ensuring that a greater number of women infiltrate art spaces.

This year’s Freelands Award shortlist is:

Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
Spike Island, Bristol
Metropolitan Arts Centre (The MAC), Belfast
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge

The winning organisation and selected artist will be announced in Autumn 2018.


Dundee Contemporary Arts, Courtesy of Dundee Contemporary Arts


Spike Island, photography by Max McClure


MAC Belfast, photography by Donal McCann


Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Photography by Jonty Wilde


Kettle’s Yard, photography by Hufton + Crow