The Guerrilla Girls formed in 1985 as an anonymous group determined to fight sexism in the art world. Their initial strategy was to put up protest posters during the night in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan. What residents saw in the morning were statistics printed in black on white paper, and the numbers spoke for themselves: that only one woman had had a solo exhibition in a New York Museum in the previous year; that fewer than 10% of artists shown in top galleries were women; that art magazines devoted less than 25% of coverage to women artists. Confronting the art world with its patent injustice, the posters caused a sensation.
The Guerrilla Girls developed their expose over the next two decades, systematically attacking the arbiters of taste in the art world, including gallerists, critics, curators, collectors, editors, and even prominent male artists who failed to support their campaign. To the stark presentation of fact they added wit, using, for example, the format of an elementary school report card to grade and comment on the galleries' performance with regard to women artists, or listing the disadvantages of being a woman artist as advantages. It was frequently this mock reversal of values that was at the core of their effective humor, even when they moved into the broader political arena to target the Bush-era censorship campaigns, with messages such as, "Relax, Senator Helms, the art world is your kind of place."
The Guerrilla Girls have given lectures and performances dressed as gorillas to pursue the pun on their name, conceal their identities, and emphasize the primal intelligence and strength of their political position. Instead of using their given names, they took the names of women artists from the past as pseudonyms. They have also curated two major exhibitions. In 1985, their Palladium show exhibited women artists. In 1987, in protest against the Whitney Biennial's selection of artwork, they curated a counter exhibition, Guerrilla Girls Review the Whitney, in which they revealed the corporate ties of the institution. Over the years, they have also produced mass mailings that attacked reviewers or gallerists with more specificity than a poster allowed; books, including Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls (1995) and The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art (1998); the journal Hot Flashes (1990); and various toys, cards, banners, and other ephemera, often derived from the poster concepts.
From the guide to the Guerrilla Girls records, 1979-2003, (The Getty Research Institute)