Spectators, Observers, Witnesses and Protagonists

"Women Up" by Director Cristiana Collu

By La Galleria Nazionale

Ragazza TV (1964) by Giosetta FioroniLa Galleria Nazionale

If James Clifford proposed the idea of museums as “contact zones” – which implies the fact of affecting the collection, the programmes and therefore the historical, ethical and political relationships in a game that he defines as “a power-charged set of exchanges, of push and pull” – this contact zone, laboratory of critical discussion in which one can transcend formalism towards a dynamic understanding of the world, is not yet a free space and must compete against a specific reactionary ideology.

Sequences (1963) by Bice LazzariLa Galleria Nazionale

Museums are tools that refine the modern cultural complex, they are essential milestones, ceremonial sites but also places where it is possible to have authentic experiences in the paradoxical situation in which everything is out of reach and nothing can be “used”.

The dimension of pure exhibition, of showing and showcasing oneself cannot be inhabited except from our willingness to be touched, which is a fundamental condition in the contact zone.

This is why the subject we are talking about affects me, because I am a woman, and it affects me since I am the director of the National Gallery.

Le tre sorelleLa Galleria Nazionale

As temples of sacred secularism, museums are also a battlefield of various interpretations of reality, which manifest themselves through positions and visions that differ from their own.

They are also useful tools to interpret reality, however the ground is brittle and slippery and an excess of caution produces unsteady steps, while the opposite excess cannot be contemplated.

What remains is the objective clarity of the data and the extremism of the gesture, precise and surgical but bare, therefore vulnerable, sensitive, exposed.

Klage (l'urlo) (1930) by Höch HannahLa Galleria Nazionale

The museum as a social institution is unquestionably responsible for cultural mediation and strategies to identify and transform the imagination. Inside them, gender has helped to deepen, transform, alter and embrace new forms of culture and thought.

But other categories can also be found such as class, ethnicity, age to name just a few, which must be integrated into the museum activity and which, in the specific case, make women visible and clarify their presence and participation.

Gender, as an abstract analytical category, can be applied to the structure of femininity, masculinity, androgyny and of all other sociobiological identities that enable the study of roles, stereotypes, power relationships, social stratification and even the self-construction of cultural identity, and allows us to understand how hierarchies, relationships based on supremacy and inequalities are created and thrive.

Apollo e Dafne (1974) by Ketty La RoccaLa Galleria Nazionale

In this research and reflection, not only data but also solutions and perspectives are disclosed.

Observing the museum's collection that spans two and a half centuries, but also the temporary exhibitions that have been and remain the privileged mode of communication of museums, we have ascertained the minimal inclusion of female artists and have focused our attention on the representation of women and dominant women stereotypes, highlighting how the introduction of gender perspective begins to undermine and demolish residual, asymmetrical, stereotyped, depersonalised, unknown or simply absent modalities.

Griselda Pollock reminds us that museums are “places that produce meanings" and “cultural practices” that intervene in cultural and social life.

Contributing to the visibility of women in museum exhibitions requires the introduction of new themes, new techniques and the development of different expository discourses and the use of participatory methods.

Let’s try to make our contribution as protagonists in the journey of museums as increasingly more aware and responsible social institutions.

Don’t you see anything there?

Yes, I see. And not only time out of shape, but Lucy, all of us prehistoric futurists.

Credits: Story

Cristiana Collu, Director of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Rome

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Women Up
The National Gallery of Rome celebrates the six-year-long program dedicated to gender equality
View theme
Google apps