Then: "We were a group of women artists (75 or so since 1985) for whom things had gotten worse for after the gains of the '60s and '70s." ("Kate Kollwitz," a founding Guerrilla Girl) They became the self-described "Conscience of the Art World," an anonymous group of "professional complainers" who took the names of famous artists, wore gorilla masks in appearances and plastered simple, black-and-white posters around New York asking blunt questions of art institutions (and offering blunt answers). Such as, "Do women have to be naked to get into the Metropolitan Museum?" (Answer: In 1985, according to the Guerrillas, five percent of the artists on display were female. Also, 85 percent of the nudes were female.) "They were very important and clear about saying, 'We want to hold museums accountable for what they do.'" (Molesworth)
Now: A major influence on arts and media activists, particularly the way it brought a sense of irony and spectacle to a serious commitment to change. ¿What we did became a pretty contemporary strategy for turning people's minds around on big issues.¿ (¿Kollwitz¿) ¿The mid-1980s was a moment of real bean counting, and a lot of us sat though meetings where people would say, `There are not enough African-Americans on this list. There are not enough women on this list.' Those were painful meetings. But the payoff was worth it.¿ (Molesworth) A major retrospective of their work opens March 1 at Columbia College.