“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” The Guerrilla Girls, a feminist activist artist collective, posed this question in 1989, casting the inquiry onto a rectangle yellow poster. Printed alongside the question, a woman donning a gorilla mask lounges unclothed in a pose typical of what one might find displayed within the marbled halls of art institutions. A set of data punctuates the work: “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”

The Guerrilla Girls sent this message buzzing down the streets of New York City, where they rented out space on city buses to get their message to the public. In the intervening 30 years since, the poster has peeled away from NYC transit to make its way around the world, appearing in different languages and formats, from large-scale reproductions to modest-sized prints suitable for interior design.

Humor is a great leveler. We discovered that if you can make someone who disagrees with you laugh, you are inside their brains and you have a chance to change their minds. It’s hard to see our work and not think differently about issues. We always wanted to be transformational; our work rarely speaks to the converted. Except when you see a lot of it all together in a book like “The Art of Behaving Badly”! LOL

By Britt Stigler, ALL-ARTS for WNET

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