Halla and I were recently invited to a shoot with Pegah and Jess, the founders of Repaint History and we were blown away. Repaint History is an organization whose mission is to bring recognition to forgotten female artists of the past through various mediums while supporting present and future artists to ensure this gap will not exist in the future.
Being a former art student I knew women were missing from the history books but it seriously wasn’t until I was educated by the Repaint History ladies that I realized how misleading the recording of history has been. Women have been such a huge part of the art world historically but have been silenced and barely celebrated. I am all the way here for what Pegah and Jess are doing to shed some much needed light on female artists of the past and present which I hope will make room for more female artists in the future.
I chatted with Pegah on her movement and why it exists thought what better day to share it with you than International Women’s Day!?
Check it out below.
Why did you start Repaint History?
In 2016 the barista at my local coffee shop who was also a choreographer invited me to her dance show. While I loved her show and collaboration with other choreographers, I noticed the attendance was quite low. I wanted to somehow help her out, so during the intermission I decided to start an Instagram account (under a different name at the time) and promote her work. After that night I thought, there must be more artists who need the same support. So, I dedicated my free time to finding new and emerging artists and would cover their work on the account. Through this work I started thinking of the current artists I was supporting; and that led me to think of past artists. Specifically, how they tried to promote and make a name for themselves. While thinking through this, I realized I could only name male artists from the past. I could barely think of any female artists. I mean thank god for Frida! But she was the only female artist that I could think of. So I started dedicating hours to researching artists of the past and that’s when I found out shocking stats on women representation in the art world. For instance, the most expensive work sold by a woman artist at auction, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, sold in 2014 for $44.4 million—over four hundred million dollars less than the auction record for a male artist: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold in 2017 for $450.3 million, shattering the previous record of $179.4 million for a work by Picasso. Or the fact that only 13.7% of living artists represented by galleries in Europe and North America are women. I also learned about so many women artists who were pioneers and made a name for themselves; some were even mentors to the male masters that we know today. Yet somehow throughout history these women’s names have been missed. Reading their stories I was quite furious that I didn’t know them. Just to make sure I wasn’t the only one, I decided to walk the streets of Toronto and interview people (video on our site!) 99% of the time people couldn’t name three past female artists and that shocked them. Yet, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh.. were a breeze to mention in 5-10 seconds. Enraged about this gap in knowledge I knew I had to do something about it. So I thought of a few different ways to address it. I noticed so many people in the art world have also tried to address this gap through a written form, conversation or an event. I knew that something different was needed for the message to spread organically. We needed to add a new layer, something unique and a conversation starter! So I thought of clothing, because you are a walking billboard when you wear something, why not put your clothes to good use? I decided to design unique blouses and tees that seamlessly brought the name of these women artists alongside their male counterparts in the same design. For instance for the Berthe – Manet blouse, the idea is that you recognize Manet’s name but you wonder why is someone named Berthe included in this design and a conversation starts. All Repaint History designs follow three guiding principles; unique, conversation starter and educational. (and of course stylish)
It seems like pay equity and rights for women in the workforce are popular topics but slow to change. Do you see things changing for women in the art world?
Based on a recent research from NPR, female artists work is sold at 42% less than the male artists. This is larger than the wage gap. But I think if we push for change, raise the right questions, stay consistent, share accurate information and take action, change is inevitable. It might take time but we will make it happen. There are many organizations that are pushing to make this change and at Repaint History we will not stop until we see the change. Our goal is to bring recognition to past female artists while supporting current artists and ensuring that their names are not removed from [art] history in the future.
What are your hopes for Repaint History?
We have so many of them!! One of them is to hear the names of female artists amongst their male counterparts when people think of artists of the past. A true equality and respect for their work, the recognition of their works in museums and galleries, and fair prices for their works on par with their male counterparts. We also hope (and will work hard) to grow Repaint History in a way that we can fully support our current female artists to ensure that their names are not forgotten or removed from history in the future.
Where can people go to purchase your awesome line and support?
They can purchase our line at repainthistory.com or on our Instagram account @repaint.history. All of our clothing is made in Canada. We also contribute 5% of our sales to SKETCH Toronto, a charity that supports youth through the arts and art education.