Since Peggy Guggenheim famously declared "it's still a boys' club, no question in my mind," conversation around gender inequality within the art community has been rife.

Having established itself as a global centre for the exhibition and sale of contemporary art, London has seen a dramatic increase in the number of galleries, with commercial and non-profit spaces springing up across the city over the past decade. The majority of these venues, however, continue to favour the work of male artists, begging the question of how gender equality has figured in this boom. When we are moving at such a fast pace, are women artists being left behind?

We spoke to Amy Preston, who leads design projects for well-established art institutions such as Frieze, Somerset House and Marguerite (the London members club for influential women working in the arts), about her vision of the future of art and the current day gender gap.


How has your design work been shaped by art?

I try to avoid being influenced by what is current in Graphic Design as I'm conscious that it's easy to mimic what is fashionable. When I begin a project I'll often be inspired by an artwork or movement. For example, for the latest project I'm working on with STUDIO TOOGOOD and the British Fashion Council I referenced Ed Ruscha's series of stain paintings where he used unusual or everyday substances such as tea and oil to write his slogans. For this project, we have digitised hand-painted lettering and (in a rather cyclical process) have then hand painted it back onto fabric dyed with clay from the River Thames.

Who would be your top 3 favourite artists of all time?

I think many designers are inspired by Marcel Duchamp as he was more interested in concept rather than aesthetic. His theories have influenced the way I work, such as the idea of elevating the everyday object ('readymades'). An ongoing project I'm working on for Frieze involves photographing seemingly ordinary objects from the archives of 20th Century artists and displaying them in a new contemporary context.

I am drawn to the minimal aesthetic of Carmen Herrera and her simple use of shape and colour. In my opinion, she rivals any of the Abstract Expressionists, but it wasn't until 2004 (at the age of 89) that she sold her first painting.

I enjoy the systematic approach of Susan Hiller's work. Her 'From the Freud Museum' installation is probably the artwork I have spent most time with, enjoying the categorisation and organisation of the objects.

Do you have any style icons?

Ray Eames in her black pinafore.

Do you think things have changed for women in the art world since you began as a designer? If so, how?

I feel there is a lot of solidarity. I am part of a members club for women working within the arts called Marguerite (named after the hugely influential Peggy Guggenheim). However, at college, I'd say 80% of my class were male. This ratio is still apparent in Graphic Design with many established design studios dominated by men, especially in the world of typography. That said, some of the most interesting work is coming from female designers - Kirsty Carter and Emma Thomas of APFEL, Frith Kerr of Studio Frith and Veronica Ditting (to name but a few).

Do you think society sufficiently values women artists?

My experience has always been positive. Arguably women artists are probably not always fairly represented in financial or curatorial terms. Most recently, I noted how few women were represented in the Abstract Expressionist show at the Royal Academy with the likes of Pollock, Rothko, De Kooning and Gorky permeating the exhibition but virtually no female artists.

Who is your art world girl crush?

Tauba Auerbach.

Do you have a clear, ideal vision of the future of the art world (or world in general)?

I hope that artists are able to continue to produce innovative work as it becomes increasingly unaffordable to live and work in cities like London.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

My ex-boss once drew this triangle and told me that in order to run a successful small design studio you should only take on a new project if it talks to two of the points on the triangle. It sounds a bit like corporate jargon, but I have found the idea fundamental to running a small business in the art world where the pay is not always commensurate to the work and effort which goes into a project.

Discover more of Amy Preston's work by heading here.