Interview with the founder of Girlsinmuseum Camila Crescini

Camilla Crescini is the founder of @girlsinmuseums, an Instagram account hat collects photographs having as subjects women and girls in museums, galleries and cultural venues. The photographs are tracked through the use of the hashtag #girlsinmuseums, which now counts more than 9000 UGC, content generated by the users themselves. I have been fortunate to meet you in person, but many of your followers don’t. I guess they will also like to know more about the founder of #girlsinmuseums.

Cristina Benzi: Where and how did the idea of creating #girlsinmuseums come?

Camilla Crescini: The idea of #girlsinmuseums was born from a personal experience which then triggered into various reflections and considerations.

Last February was a month full of visits to exhibitions, openings in galleries and travels. Every single day I was going in a museum or gallery. I was literally living for that and this became such a fundamental and essential part of myself that I needed to share it with other people. My “Weltanschauung” was totally influenced by the experience as exhibitions’ visitor.

One morning I was at the Fondazione Giò Marconi, where there was a great retrospective about the Italian artist Giuseppe Maraniello. With me there was Francesca Malagoli, the face – or rather the nape – of what has since become @girlsinmuseums, an adventure that we undertook together.

CB: Have you done any recently research about the influence of women in the art world?

CC: Yes, I have. In fact, in that same period when #girlsinmuseum was born, I was doing several readings in frame of a research I was doing about women in cultural institutions: how many women curators in museums, how many artworks by women artists represented in the permanent collections of museums, how many people visiting museums and the use of social media during their visit and so on…

The information I found was very discouraging. For example, only 14% of the artworks in Tate Modern’s collection are made by women, and just the 30% of Saatchi Gallery’s artists are women. The first 100 artworks sold at auction in 2012 are all created just by men and the prices of the 10 most expensive Postwar Art works exceed the highest price ever paid for a work of art by a women artist (Spider by Louise Bourgeois).

As instead regards the leadership positions in the directions of the museums, women across all levels earned 78% of what men in comparable roles earned. Women were directors of only 47% of small and mid-sized museums, and only 25% of the largest museums were led by a female director. 57.2% of directors/CEOs/presidents are female, but the median income for females in this leadership role was 78% of the median income for male directors/CEOs/presidents.

The works of art collected within our museums reflect and influence our society and our culture. The directors and personalities who work in visual arts major institutions have the big responsibility of defining the role that art plays in our contemporary world. These are very important issues, and we should all be sensitive about that. Although women have made great strides toward equality, it is unavoidable to admit that a gender gap still exists.

An interesting fact that came out from my research is that women post more content on social media during their visits in museums than men (87% versus 13% of contents posted by men). Conversely, more than 55% of the audience of contemporary art museums are women. All these infos made me think, and recalled to my memory the famous Guerrilla Girls’ statement: “Only 3 percent of the artists in contemporary art museums are women, but 83 percent of the nudes are female.” It was 1985 at that time, but thirty years later the situation had not changed much.

I felt the need for a strong action, a significant gesture to give proper attention to this issue and I had a powerful tool at my disposal: social networks. Girlsinmuseums aims to make people understand this gender gap and to explore the potential actions that can help achieve more equality, highlighting women and their experiences.

Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan (Italy)Artist: Nazgol Ansarinia,

CB: In only 11 months you have achieved significant success in Instagram. Why do you think that people like your account?

CC: I think #girlsinmuseums’ fortune is to be found in its ability of intercepting an unheeded demand and of positioning – before all the others – in a niche. This niche consist of all the women, girls, students, mothers, workers, critics, curators, men and boys that are passionate about the arts first of all and that only after this are defined by their gender. Thanks to this, we are able to talk every day about a sensitive issue, the one of the gender gap, in a light but weighty way using the contents generated by who face this gap daily.  

The strength of #girlsinmuseums consists in the fact that we constantly rethink the account, we always try to find new proposals to involve our audience. And we do it with no budget: we haven’t spent a penny since the first day. But this doesn’t mean we have to compromise or to lower the quality of contents and the richness of our initiatives. Of course, the time we spent on @girslinsmuseums is truly a lot and planning requires tons of attention and a lot of work (the campaign we undertook in March for #5womenartists was truly massive) but our efforts are rewarded from the enthusiasm of who discovers #girlsinmuseums, from our passion and our tenacity.

CB: If you had to define #girlsinmuseum with one word. Which would it be?

CC: Community.

CB:  We would like to know a little more about your project. Do you have any goals?

CC: As #girlsinmuseums started suddenly and naturally, we believe it’s important to plan the timing very well and to be able to change and to go with the flow…!

Main goal would be starting bringing the online activities of #girlsinmuseums offline – which is something we are always working on.

Other goals: launching our website and involving national and international press.

Albergo diurno di Venezia (by Fondazione Nicola Trussardi), Milan (Italy), Innamemorabiliamumbum by Sara Lucas

CB:  Women play a major role in #girlsinmuseums. Could you tell us what role do you think the women play in the art world in the 21 century? If there is any difference, what makes the difference from the role they had before?

CC:  We all know that, as Beyoncé puts it, girls run the world. That’s arguably especially true in the art world, where many powerful and influential art advisors, auction house specialists and dealers are all women. And then there are the curators, whose exhibitions help us to reassess established figures or bring new ones to light.

So said, I do think we should stop defining people form their gender, first of all. And this not means I’m pro the no-gender movement.

I am aware that, especially since the late 1960s when the feminist art movement can be said to have emerged, women have been particularly interested in what makes them different from males — what makes women artists and their art different from male artists and their art. But I don’t think this is what the role of women is all about.

The role of women has changed in every field and not only in the art world, society has changed, women are more aware of their abilities and their rights.

I think the only poignant difference we can trace is the fact that women can have more space today than 40/30/20 years ago (but, as I told in the second answer, it’s not enough).

CB:  If you had to choose between being a woman or female art curator in the 21 century. Which one would it be? Why?

CC: I would choose to be an art curator. Full stop. No woman, no female.

Only our skills, our professionalism and our cultural and professional background should define us. I’m not different from a skilled male art curator because I am a woman and he is not different from me because he is a man. We can be different because we have different point of views, different approach to texts, to exhibition making, to collection highlights and so on. And this is all about our ideas, not our gender.

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CB:  On social networks. Why did you choose Instagram and Twitter? Will it be one of your next step also Facebook?

CC: The choice of Instagram is not casual. Instagram is an online and mobile platform for sharing photos and video. The app allows users to postproduction the pics using filters, as well as a basic image manipulation (size, rotation, lighting…). Instagram also allows to share suitably modified and filtered photo directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. Instagram users can interact through comments or likes, and you can see the posts liked by accounts you follow. This function is not to be underestimated when you consider how to engage “friends of friends” that are in the same communities of followers and, potentially, may be interested in similar contents. You can also do a search of all the Instagram posts via the hashtag. The amount of active users of Instagram classifies it as one of the “must to be on” social networks. In addition, the average age of the majority of users makes it particularly interesting: the young, in fact, are often one of the targets that cultural institutions struggle to engage.

Moreover, the aesthetic component that characterizes Instagram is well suited to the types of content that #girlsinmuseums has chosen to share.

The Instagram users pay particular attention to the choice of the subject photographed, the aesthetics of the photographs and videos and tone of the captions. In subjects, users often look for unusual or unique features, new views on museums and their spaces, insights on the behind the scenes. In many cases, the aesthetic quality is considered central to the experience of the museum communication. Many users are well aware of the manipulation of photographs and dig for it because it is an example of a clear visual strategy. We must not forget that when visitors share their experiences on Instagram or other social networks, they extend the presence of cultural institutions outside their own walls. Choosing the subject of photography, deciding how to photograph it, to frame it, and to tag it, #girlsinmuseums has the opportunity to present and show content in innovative ways.

Twitter came after because it allows us to start discussions. Facebook page launch could be next, but our strategy is driven by the IG account as a core and we don’t want to double it with a Facebook page that is merely a copy of our IG…

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CB:Last one question. Would you like to share with us who is your female artist/curator/art dealer/etc  for excellence? Why?

CC: There are so many, I would go just with a few…  

Artists: Camille Henrot, Ann Hirsch, Marzia Migliora, Chiara Fumai, Pamela Rosenkranz, Rachel De Joode, Claire Evans and Camille Norment – because of their delicacy.

Curator: Anne d’Harnoncourt, Johanna Burton, Federica Chiocchetti, Lauren Cornell, Nina Zimmer, Susanne Pfeffer, Eva Respini, Cristiana Collu are just a little part of the ones I admire – because of their flair and their critical approach to the relationship between the artists’/viewers’ experiences.

Art dealer: Marian Goodman, STAMPA Galerie, Rebecca May Marston (Limoncello Gallery), Rachel Uffner, Tanja Wagner, Nina Johnson (Gallery Diet), Isabella Bortolozzi  – because they were able to create a place where questions are asked rather than answers found or things resolved.

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