Let’s get started with a recent column Kieran Long of the Victoria & Albert Museum wrote for Dezeen:
“There is without doubt institutional prejudice in parts of the furniture industry, especially in Italy, but mostly it’s just carelessness and laziness. It must also be because brands, PR people, agents, curators and media outlets can not think of any women to invite. Hence this column.”
We were taken aback because at CFile our posts often run in favor of women, particularly in art and design. Never, alas, as much in architecture, but that is architecture’s problem, not ours. We just report on what is built.
We are not, however, expecting a feminist medal for courage. We do not consciously consider x or y chromosomes. It’s not a mission. There is no quota. There is no PC gender check before publication. We look at achievements and ends in balance. But that is within CFile’s perfect nonprofit world. For-profit is a different environment. Long sees it as partly a Rolodex problem:
“I know how it goes. You’re organizing an event or a commission, you go to your contacts book, you phone up the next in line and they happen to be male. This idea first came up when my wife (Sofia Lagerkvist from Front) was invited to be on the jury of the new Young Talent Award, funded by the Be Open Think Tank. She was the only woman on the jury (out of five) and there was only one woman on the shortlist for the prize (Katharina Mischer of male/female duo Mischer Traxler, who also won the prize) out of ten.
“I then got into some Google research and recommend you do the same: look on the website of any of the big brands in furniture design and count the number of women they employ as designers. The results are shocking and wildly unbalanced.
“The most important and productive women in this field of design must be Patricia Urquiola and Hella Jongerius. If you need legends try them, or Reny Ramakers, Li Edelkoort or Ilse Crawford. To that you would add Front (read my above disclosure) as the highest profile all-woman design studio.”
Long admits that even his own institution is part of the problem. The post-1945 gallery of design at the V&A has a grand total of four pieces of furniture designed by women (Sayaka Yamamoto, Ineke Hans, Alison Wales and Mary Little), two of which were are credited in partnership with men.
He has a practical answer and offers his own Rolodex of woman designers and calls for the Design world movers and shakers to integrate it with their own. Happily, we have already done posts on some on the list and have others coming up soon for Patricia Urquilo and Li Edelkoort (part of a great project in Africa).
Garth Clark is Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Object from the Shade series by Swedish design group Front.
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