Women Working in the Arts: Marie-Odile
For our first-ever women’s issue this past spring (which is still available for purchase here) I profiled four young and entrepreneurial women working in the arts to highlight those not only creating work, but also those who are supporting artists as curators, gallerists, educators, writers, and more! I’ve kept this series going on our blog and am excited to share this interview with gallery manager and art influencer Marie-Odile, or @imagine_moi on Instagram.
My name is Marie-Odile (it’s a peculiar name, I admit!) and I was born after 1990 in France. It feels like I’ve always been passionate about art. After a few years away from what I believe is my path, I dropped out of HEC Montréal Business School to go study art history and earn a master’s degree at la Sorbonne in Paris. Now, I am a gallery manager in Paris with the background of an art historian.
I am half French and half Brazilian so ethnic mix and hybridization run through my veins. During my time at la Sorbonne, I saw the opportunity to study the history of Brazil through an art historical lens. I wrote two theses related to Brazilian art history and contemporary art. My first essay focused on the study of religious syncretism present in the art of Thiago Martins de Melo. My second one was a critique of the itinerant exhibition Imagine Brazil. I consider art to be a window to important matters such as feminism, history, the LGBTQI+ rights movements, inclusivity, and even geopolitics!
Choose one woman in the arts from history or who is working today and tell us about why she inspires you or has had an impact on you.
I was always amazed by Peggy Guggenheim and the fact that she had a significant role in art history. Everywhere she went, she left something to be remembered. She built strong friendships that encouraged her to open her horizons. Peggy started an art gallery at 39! She supported Surrealism and Abstraction and took part in the writing of American art history with the Abstract Expressionist movement. For her, collecting artworks was both a way to support artists and to share them with the world. Her ambition to open a museum was realized with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, which was later donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in the late 70’s. She had the guts and the desire to share her passion for the arts and to take part in its modern history.
I would love to hear a bit more about your Instagram account too. When did you start it and was it always focused on art?
By the end of 2017, I started to think about my own “personal branding” and how I could carve out a place for myself in the art world. I had no contacts to begin with, only my personality and passion, so I decided that Instagram appeared to be the perfect social media channel with which I could connect to art lovers around the world. I imagined what I could do with my profile and then I worked to create the account and grow it to what is now.
No, it wasn't focused on art first because it took me a little while to understand how it works. I go to exhibitions, museums, and galleries on a regular basis. This is a habit I kept from my art history student years, when I had moved to Paris and got struck by the possibility of seeing art anywhere all the time. I started to share my experiences through my stories and I received messages like: "Thank you, I can visit and see art through your Instagram" from people far away. It kind of moved me. So then I started to read every article I could to understand Instagram algorithms and how to hashtag, for example.
What kind of content do you feature?
On @imagine_moi you will see pictures of my museum, gallery, and sometimes art fair visits, enlivened by funny art selfies. I curate little imaginary collections of artworks, mixing styles and periods according to a theme. Among the art pictures, you will encounter some selfies and casual life moments too. I am a woman and so not choosing between strictly posting art culture or casual selfies and life moments is kind of a feminist committed position of mine. I think it’s important for me to stop thinking that I have to chose in order to avoid being discredited.
My goal is not to show off with culture and knowledge. Not at all. Instead, I want to spread a desire for and curiosity about art. I’d like to see interest in art blossom in people’s minds, even more for those who think it’s not for them. I love thinking that I made someone want to go see an art show, visit a museum, or see art anytime, anywhere. Very often, in museums, I hear people saying “ Well, I could have done that”... and I think, hmm, in reality no. Before saying this, one must think about what the mainstream art of that period was like. If you were told the context of creation for the Malevich’s Black Square painting, maybe you wouldn’t think he is a con artist!
What do you love about the platform or dislike?
What I love about this platform is that I can use it to interact with people from across the world. I even started a discussion group with women from Cologne, London, San Diego, and Milan who work in the arts as well. We share art every day and it allows me to have a sneak peek into what they see at art fairs and biennales when I can't go because, let's be honest, it wouldn't really be environmentally friendly nor cheap to go to all those events. I love the idea of spotting artists that are not yet in galleries or very well known. I sometimes buy artworks from them to start my own collection. It's my way of being supportive.
I have to admit that I find it sad when people come to exhibitions only to have an artwork as a proper Instagrammable background. A lot of people do not credit the artists nor the location of the museum or gallery because it gives a ‘cool vibe’ to be arty. It's great to see more visitors, but it's very disappointing to use an artist's work only to make people believe you are interested and part of an art intelligentsia when you are only looking to be perceived in a certain way or gain likes and followers.
Also, we’re interested to hear what are your plans for your profile going forward?
In March 2019, the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report by Clare McAndrews revealed that 10% of the more than 3,000 galleries surveyed did not represent any women artists. Among these galleries, 48% have only a quarter or less of women on their rosters. Last but not least, regarding auctions, 96% of the works sold are by male artists. I mention it because we write art history every day and I would not like to see a new article like Linda Nochlin’s 1971 piece “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” with twists like black artists instead of women, published a decade from now.
@imagine_moi is imagining all these little things I can do and everything that we can do today that will have a positive impact on tomorrow’s art world. Moving forward, I would love to serve as an ambassador or as an art influencer for museums and art fairs. We have to keep in mind that the young people of today are already buying art and will be the art collectors of tomorrow!
Article by Alicia Puig