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INVENTORY OF THE GUERRILLA GIRLS RECORDS, 1979-2003
2008.M.14  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Separated materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Guerrilla Girls records
    Date (inclusive): 1979-2003
    Number: 2008.M.14
    Creator/Collector: Guerrilla Girls (Group of artists)
    Physical Description: 96.0 linear feet (96 boxes, 20 flat files, 3 elephant folios, 1 roll)
    Repository:
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: Guerrilla Girls records document the activities of the feminist art group, comprising a complete set of posters, mass mailings, form letters, and other graphic materials, along with internal group memoranda, letters from fans, business correspondence, and audiovisual materials.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    The Guerrilla Girls formed in 1985 as an anonymous group determined to fight sexism in the art world. Their initial strategy was to put up protest posters during the night in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan. What residents saw in the morning were statistics printed in black on white paper, and the numbers spoke for themselves: that only one woman had had a solo exhibition in a New York Museum in the previous year; that fewer than 10% of artists shown in top galleries were women; that art magazines devoted less than 25% of coverage to women artists. Confronting the art world with its patent injustice, the posters caused a sensation.
    The Guerrilla Girls developed their expose over the next two decades, systematically attacking the arbiters of taste in the art world, including gallerists, critics, curators, collectors, editors, and even prominent male artists who failed to support their campaign. To the stark presentation of fact they added wit, using, for example, the format of an elementary school report card to grade and comment on the galleries' performance with regard to women artists, or listing the disadvantages of being a woman artist as advantages. It was frequently this mock reversal of values that was at the core of their effective humor, even when they moved into the broader political arena to target the Bush-era censorship campaigns, with messages such as, "Relax, Senator Helms, the art world is your kind of place."
    The Guerrilla Girls have given lectures and performances dressed as gorillas to pursue the pun on their name, conceal their identities, and emphasize the primal intelligence and strength of their political position. Instead of using their given names, they took the names of women artists from the past as pseudonyms. They have also curated two major exhibitions. In 1985, their Palladium show exhibited women artists. In 1987, in protest against the Whitney Biennial's selection of artwork, they curated a counter exhibition, Guerrilla Girls Review the Whitney, in which they revealed the corporate ties of the institution. Over the years, they have also produced mass mailings that attacked reviewers or gallerists with more specificity than a poster allowed; books, including Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls (1995) and The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art (1998); the journal Hot Flashes (1990); and various toys, cards, banners, and other ephemera, often derived from the poster concepts.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers except for Box 96 Redactions which is restricted and sealed.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Guerrilla Girls records, 1979-2003, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2008.M.14.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2008.

    Processing History

    Initial processing by Vladimira Stefura in 2008. Further processing and cataloging by Annette Leddy in 2009. Redaction and conservation by Jan Bender. Object conservation by Albrecht Gumlich. Arrangement is based on the Guerrilla Girls' original filing system for their poster projects. Every effort has been made to redact the names of individual artist members of the group, unless they gave permission to reveal their names.

    Related Archival Materials

    Guerrilla Girls' poster portfolio 2, 1991-1999, Call number: 2730-185.

    Separated materials

    99 serials and 54 monographs were separated to the library.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Guerrilla Girls records document the activities of the feminist art group, comprising a complete set of posters, mass mailings, form letters, and other graphic materials, showing the evolution of their work and their notable expansion of focus from the art world to George Bush-era politics to New York theater. Series I documents their notorious posters in chronological order. Series II. Assorted graphic works, shows their assiduous pursuit of justice through mass and individual mailings about and to various art world figures, along with the private replies they often received. This series also provides a glimpse into their collective compositional process, with drafts of posters and comments on them, along with source material in the form of clippings and statistical reports. Series III concerns books and serials they created.
    Series IV. Photographs, V. Exhibitions, and VI. Lectures and Performances, document the Guerrilla Girls' non-graphic activity, though the extensive list of venues is not complete. Of particular interest is Series VIII. Administration files, which includes internal group memoranda, revealing the sometimes emotional conflicts between members, and the challenges of non-hierarchical collective self-management. Also included are letters from fans, business correspondence that offers insight into donors and sponsors, and comprehensive press clippings.

    Arrangement

    Arranged in ten series: Series I. Poster projects, 1985-1995; Series II. Assorted graphic works, 1980-1999; Series III. Publications, 1986-1995; Series IV. Photographs, 1987-1997; Series V. Exhibitions, 1981-2003; Series VI. Lectures and Performances, 1985-2002; Series VII. Objects, undated; Series VIII. Administration files, 1985-2002; Series IX. Other groups and institutions, 1979-2003; Series X. Miscellaneous, 1985-2002.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Art critics--United States--20th century
    Art dealers--United States--20th century
    Art museums--Exhibitions--United States
    Feminism and art--United States--20th century
    Feminsim in art
    Photographic prints--United States--20th century
    Sex discrimination against women
    Women artists
    Women artists--United States--20th century

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Posters--United States--20th century
    Sketches--United States--20th century
    Sound recordings--United States--20th century
    Videocassettes--United States--20th century