Untitled Painted Heads #5, Chromogenic print, 2015 - Susan Unterberg
In this edition of Inside the Artist’s Studio we sit down with iconic NYC photographer and philanthropist, Susan Unterberg.
How do you experience art?
Experiencing art in person is the best way to look at art, despite how dependent we are on digital viewing. I usually respond to art viscerally, or, if the work is conceptual, intellectually. Making and sharing art is a profound way to talk about what it is like to be alive.
Of all the museums where your work is featured, to what institution do you have the strongest personal connection?
I am always honored when an institution decides to acquire my work. But I’ve lived within walking distance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art my entire life, and it’s been a godsend in times when I need to be in the presence of art. Being in their collection and having one of my pieces shown at the Met was a personal highlight.
Doubletakes #7, Chromogenic print, 1996 - Susan Unterberg
In your lifetime, what would you say has been the most important movement for women in the arts?
As I was coming up in the art world, feminism was a major force in both the creation of art and social consciousness. In the arts, it made room for new forms of art, including what I was interested in, domesticity and familial ties. I think Feminism is still important, and is not just one thing: there can and should be many feminisms to uplift various needs and voices. In your opinion, how has the art world evolved for women?
Not enough. Although we are more aware of many inequities that women face in the art world, it is still evolving, and too slowly. One of the reasons I started the Anonymous Was A Woman Award was to focus on mid-career, women artists, who are often overlooked in relation to their younger and older peers.
Untitled Painted Heads #1, Chromogenic print, 2014 - Susan Unterberg
What needs to change?
Don’t get me started!!! So many things need changing, especially institutionally. Far more women should be on museum and institutional boards; and this goes also for curators and institutional directors. Museums and auction houses should be doing more to promote and value women artists equally to men. Change can also come from philanthropy, most impactfully by focusing on direct support. In my case, ‘feminist’ philanthropy is a way to change things faster, by giving directly to artists.
Why is it important to invest in women artists?
I think the question really is: why do we believe it is important to invest disproportionately in men?
Untitled Painted Heads Continued #1, Chromogenic print, 2016 - Susan Unterberg
What advice do you have for women artists who are just beginning their careers?
Believe in yourself and your work, and work hard. Form mutually-supportive communities of artists, and celebrate each other’s successes. Don’t underestimate the effect you can have on the art world you participate in.
For ArtTable’s first ever Virtual Gala, we have collaborated to create the “Anonymous Was A Woman,” limited edition silk scarf designed by Susan.
Receive this exclusive scarf as a gift with your Host Committee- Leadership Ticket
Susan Unterberg is a NYC-based photographer, philanthropist and founder/funder of the Anonymous Was A Woman Award. Her direct investment in women artists continues to create waves through the art world, redistributing wealth and opportunities for women in the arts.