The Art Angle Podcast: Is Progress in the Art World Just a Mirage?

The co-founders of the Burns Halperin Report weigh in on the sorry state of diversity in the art world.

Glenn Ligon, Double America 2 (2014). © Glenn Ligon, courtesy of The Broad.

Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join us every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more, with input from our own writers and editors, as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.

Inside the art world, one of the defining narratives of the past decade has been a renewed push for gender and racial equity. Much of the attention in this realm has focused on the dramatic overrepresentation of white male artists in everything from museum collections and exhibition programs, to auction sales and gallery rosters.

Overtures to correcting the imbalance have been so prevalent in trade-media headlines, institutional marketing, and day-to-day conversations that many, if not most, art professionals seem to be confident that the industry is slowly but steadily reversing generations of deeply embedded racism and sexism. But how much has the art world really rebalanced the scales?

It turns out that the answer is much less than we hoped—at least if we look past the hype at the actual data. Enter the latest edition of the Burns Halperin Report, a multipronged data-led project helmed by Charlotte Burns, the veteran art journalist, podcaster, and founder of Studio Burns, and Artnet News executive editor Julia Halperin.

At the core of the Burns Halperin Report is a one-of-a-kind database encompassing hundreds of thousands of entries painstakingly compiled from U.S. museums, global auction houses, and top commercial galleries. The data quantifies how little has changed for artists in three historically underrepresented demographics since as far back as 2002. It also leaves the rest of us facing a lot of hard questions about why the art trade at large believes it’s doing so much better at neutralizing its biases than it actually is.

On this week’s episode, Charlotte and Julia join art business editor Tim Schneider to walk us through the report itself, how it came together, and what it all means.


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