The Italian association, based in Milan, supports women artists and looks out to the activity of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. The President – a woman, of course – is Claudia Pensotti.

Deianira Amico: In occasion of the last edition of Milan Art Fair, the Association of Friends of the National Museum of Women in the Arts has presented for the first time to the public its activities. When was born the association and which are its aims?

Claudia Pensotti: It’s positively surprising that an association dedicated to promoting and supporting the women artists was founded by a man. Our Association was conceived as an idea of ​​Vittorio Mosca, son of the Milanese painter Carla Maria Maggi. Vittorio has understood the need in the art world to pay due attention to women artists, whom, too often, have been living in the shadows. In this direction moves the valuable work of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC, which our Association refers to. Over the years, therefore, our association has been committed to promoting the course of research of the Museum, creating numerous activities addressed to women as exhibitions, studio-visits, conferences and tours.

MiArt 2015, Goldschmied & Chiari, Medusa mirrors, 2014, digital print on mirror, 225x135 cm, Courtesy the artists

MiArt 2015, Goldschmied & Chiari, Medusa mirrors, 2014, digital print on mirror, 225×135 cm, Courtesy the artists

DA: Your website dedicates a section to the associated artists. Which are the choosing criteria of the artists?

CP: Our Association tries to give space and visibility to female talent. A key part of our advice is made by people working in different artistic fields: from the world of visual art, literature, music and aesthetics. The experts support the Association in the selection of the artists. We try to know all artist as much as possible, each one considering its own wealth of experience and style, and we offer several occasions for both nationally and internationally exhibitions, as proved by our presence at MiArt and Women to Watch 2015. We also support the work of artists through the news section of our website ( and our Facebook page and Twitter.

DA: Are there other associations in the world born with goals similar to yours and that support the cultural activities of NWMA? If yes, there is a network?

CP: The number of Committees connected to the Museum is growing. Obviously there are many American associations, but the presence of committees supporting NMWA is strong also in Europe, where we find active realities in Italy, Spain, France, England, Portugal and the Czech Republic. Recently, in 2013, was born a committee in Chile; it is the first initiative born in Central and South America. To coordinate the various committees, the museum planning a busy schedule of events, which are undoubtedly an opportunity to share for projects developed by NMWA and a challenging opportunity for growth and comparison between different realities.

DA: NWMA is an unique museum, perhaps not enough known in the circuits of cultural tourism. The museum was created in 1987 by the impassioned efforts of two American collectors and has a remarkable permanent collection. Which are the reasons to visit it?

CP: The NMWA is the only Institution in the world dedicated exclusively to women, born thanks to the passion of the spouses Holladay. To now, the Museum has more than 5,000 artworks ranging from the Renaissance to the present. On one side we find a permanent collection of excellence, on the other one a dynamic and varied program of art exhibitions. The Museum also praises a thematic library, as well as a full selection of educational meetings and an extensive catalog of publications. It is an Institution active in the international museum circuit, but unfortunately not enough known to the general public. Washington is a city with a high level artistic profile, including historic buildings, museums and galleries. It’s not easy to compete with sixteen Smithsonian museums, but the National Museum of Women in the Arts is certainly a valid and interesting proposition; one of the cultural excellence the city can boast.

National Museum for Women in the Arts, photo Tom Field

National Museum for Women in the Arts, photo Tom Field

DA: Today the artistic director of the Museum is Susan Fisher Sterling. Which critical choices carried out by the manager? How do you see the initiative Women to Watch 2015?

CP: Under the direction of Susan Fisher Sterling, the NMWA is increasingly attentive to the contemporary universe: from recent acquisitions to the latest art exhibition. Until January the museum will host an exhibition dedicated to American photographer Esther Bubley and follow an exhibition about artists and designers from the middle of the twentieth century to the present. The project Women to Watch fits perfectly in this direction, bringing every two years in Washington emerging artists from different countries. An opportunity to reflect on issues of great relevance, as expressed through the works of female hand, presented by the committees around the world and selected by the Museum. This year the theme was “Organic Matters”: the nature understood in its broadest sense. The work selected to represent Italy was Nympheas # 12 of the young couple of artists Goldschmied & Chiari.

DA: The Italian committee for the artist’s selection at Women to Watch 2015 included an art historian of the Museo del Novecento in Milan. Is this presence indicative of future collaborations between the two museums?

CP: The collaboration with the Museo del Novecento, under the direction of Marina Pugliese, has made a fundamental contribution to this event. In particular, it was essential to the work done by Iolanda Ratti whom, with her intelligence and her artistic sensibility, followed us in all phases of the project. I can only hope that this experience will be the beginning of a long collaboration. I have to remember that our association has already collaborated several times for cultural projects in Milan: in 2007 we supported the exhibition at Palazzo Reale “Art of women – from the Renaissance to Surrealism”, where among the works on display were a number of paintings on loan from the collection of NMWA. Later in 2010 we presented the exhibition “Carla Maria Maggi and the portrait in Milan in the thirties”, realizing the most important exhibition dedicated to the painter, with over fifty works.

DA: Recently opened the exhibition “The Great Mother” at Palazzo Reale in Milan, curated by Massimiliano Gioni. What’s  your opinion as woman, journalist and President of the Association about the show?

CP: The “Great Mother” is a show that everyone should see. Now I am speaking as President of this association, but every day I’m a mother, a wife and a journalist. The reality of women is complicated, perhaps now more than ever and this exhibition tries to make see the thousand faces. On the one hand, I like to think that the strong presence of women in this art exhibition is not a case: maybe someone is starting to look at art from our same perspective. On the other hand, an exhibition entitled “The great mother” means wanting to grasp the secret of femininity and who better than the women themselves is able to enclose in one picture?

Deianira Amico


Cover image: Goldschmied & Chiari, Ninfee #12, 2007, Lambda print,Courtesy the artists

This post is also available in: Italian