Each year, London-based collector Valeria Napoleone sets an acquisition budget for herself, and considers what works she might add to her roughly 400-work-strong collection of art by women, built over more than two decades. In the past five years, she noticed a strange, recurring phenomenon: Works by young artists, often barely out of grad school, commanded similar or higher prices than pieces by accomplished mid-career artists, some of whom she herself had been buying since the late 1990s.
“You have someone in her fifties, with a long story of exhibitions, and the price is the same as an artist who’s just had one or two solo shows in a gallery, so what’s happening here?” said Napoleone. “I’m confronted with this more and more every day.”
Any artist’s mid-career period—which, for this story, is loosely defined as an artist who has been working continuously for at least a decade—can be fraught. But it is especially challenging for female artists, who face deeply ingrained stereotypes and biases, whose work is less easily received by a male-dominated art market, and who may be less inclined to advocate for themselves than their male peers. Interviews with more than a dozen artists, dealers, and arts professionals show how women navigate this tricky terrain—with sheer perseverance, conscious reinvention, and the help and support of friends.
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