The Guerrilla Girls fight discrimination with coffee mugs

October 27, 2015, 6:56 PM UTC
© MoMA 2011

Can a tea towel be subversive? The Guerrilla Girls, the anonymous, activist art group, are introducing a line of products that “question the role of the cultural souvenir in today’s art world.”

Just over thirty years ago, The Guerrilla Girls, the activist art group known for “fighting discrimination with facts” was born when it protested a contemporary art show at the Museum of Modern Art for its underrepresentation of women and minorities. Today they return to the MoMA Design and Book Store to launch a line of tea towels, hankies and mugs created with Third Drawer Down Studio.

In May of 1984, a group of artists, wearing gorilla masks to hide their real identities, railed against the museum’s International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture that featured 165 artists, pointing out that fewer than 10% were women or minorities. Over the next thirty years the group would gain and lose members, always wearing masks in public to remain anonymous. The activist artists used the simple act of counting—and humor— to translate their frustrations with the predominantly white male art world into subversive posters, billboards and political actions.

The new products, which will be sold at the MoMA store, are priced to be accessible (nothing over $20) and to be used or displayed. As they explain it: “Guerrilla Girls have always survived on small exchanges with many people selling tee shirts, posters, books ….We don’t have any fancy, super rich collectors, just lots of supporters who believe in our critique of the art world and want to take it into their everyday lives. Long live cheap art!”

So drink your coffee from a mug that asks “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met?” or frame the “Advantages of being a Woman Artist” tea towel (including “Being assured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled feminine” and “Not having to undergo the embarrassment of being called a genius”).

Two members of the activist art group who go by Frida Kahlo and Zubeida Agha will be at the MoMA Design and Book Store Tuesday night from 7 pm to 8 pm to respond to questions or sign your hankie.


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