A few months ago, the decision to entrust the promotion of the Uffizi Gallery to famous fashion influencer Chiara Ferragni sparked some controversy. Some found it disheartening that one of the most illustrious cultural institutions in Italy should choose an Instagram celebrity as a testimonial. Others hailed this initiative as an effective way to bring young people close to what is commonly thought of as “high” culture. What can’t be discounted, however, is that the Uffizi Gallery, besides being one of the most famous museums in the world, is also one of Florence’s financial powerhouse, with a balanced budget of over 30 Million Euros. What led to this unusual collaboration?
Pre-pandemic vs post-pandemic
Much like everything else, Italian museums had to reckon with the harsh divide between the pre-pandemic economy and the post-pandemic one. The Uffizi Gallery was among the first cases of successful re-openings when the harshest lockdown was lifted, which contributed significantly to the city’s economy as well as its psychological recovery. Eike Schmidt, who was nominated Director of the Gallery in 2015, is particularly proud of this achievement. And he also stands by his decision to entrust the promotion of the museum to Chiara Ferragni.
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Ieri ed oggi … I canoni estetici cambiano nel corso dei secoli. L’ideale femminile della donna con i capelli biondi e la pelle diafana è un tipico ideale in voga nel Rinascimento. Magistralmente espresso alla fine del ‘400 da #SandroBotticelli nella Nascita di #Venere attraverso il volto probabilmente identificato con quello della bellissima Simonetta Vespucci, sua contemporanea. Una nobildonna di origine genovese, amata da Giuliano de’Medici, fratello minore di Lorenzo il Magnifico e idolatrata da Sandro Botticelli, tanto da diventarne sua Musa ispiratrice. Ai giorni nostri l’italiana Chiara Ferragni, nata a Cremona, incarna un mito per milioni di followers -una sorta di divinità contemporanea nell’era dei social – Il mito di Chiara Ferragni, diviso fra feroci detrattori e impavidi sostenitori, è un fenomeno sociologico che raccoglie milioni di seguaci in tutto il mondo, fotografando un’istantanea del nostro tempo. 🌍ENG: Beauty standards change in the course of time. The female ideal of a blonde- haired woman with diaphanous skin is a very common beauty model in the Renaissance. Masterfully expressed by the Florentine Sandro Botticelli in The birth of Venus maybe portraying the face of one of his contemporary, Simonetta Vespucci. A beautiful noble woman, of Genoese origin, beloved by Giuliano de’ Medici, the younger brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent ; she was so worshiped by Sandro Botticelli that she became his muse. Nowadays, Chiara Ferragni, born in Cremona, embodies a role model for millions of followers – a sort of contemporary divinity in the era of social media – The myth and the story of Chiara Ferragni, argued by harsh critics and supported by faithful fans, is a real sociological phenomenon that involves millions of supporter worldwide and it can undoubtedly be considered a snap-shot of our time.
Does the Uffizi Gallery need to be more “modern”?
Once again, a vast part of the Italian public opinion is strongly opposed to the idea of “pandering” to the general taste by using popular influencers or riding social media trends. And yet Schmidt, who was never afraid of being bold in his marketing choices, can claim to have increased the Gallery’s income by 33% during his tenure. One of his first moves was commissioning a TikTok campaign with videos that some international media have found to be unusual and even “irreverent”. As the Uffizi’s post-lockdown reopening was being drowned by the inevitable overabundance of news on the latest pandemic data, Schmidt’s idea to invite Chiara Ferragni as an official testimonial brought the gallery back to the first page of all national newspapers – and a few international ones. The scandal and outrage played right into Schmidt’s strategy, leading to a surge in visits.
Did people really need to be reminded about the Uffizi Gallery by an influencer?
Yes and no. It is not entirely impossible that a few die-hard fans of Ferragni’s honestly decided to visit the Uffizi Gallery because she was spearheading the campaign, but that was obviously never the campaign’s goal. It’s much more probable that people simply needed to be reminded that the Gallery was once again open for business, after months of taking it for granted that all public indoor spaces were going to be closed. And any “normal” reopening would have failed to resonate over the noise and persisting panic of the media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. What was needed – just like Schmidt correctly guessed – was uproar, indignation, scandal, and people spontaneously discussing the news on social media, while simultaneously reminding one another that the Uffizi had indeed reopened. Simple, but effective.