ARTS & CULTURE
07/10/2014 01:52 pm ET

Belittled Women: What Does The Term 'Gallerina' Symbolize?

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One recent afternoon, a gallerist visiting from the US walked into the office of an established London gallery, openly accessible from the exhibition space. ‘Hello girls,’ he said in greeting to the two young women who were working at adjacent desks. The visitor (male, white, middle-aged) assumed that these ‘girls’ (female, white, seemingly in their 20s) were not gallerists, but rather gallerinas. To distinguish between the terms, both of which are commonly used, though have yet to enter the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘gallerist’ signifies a director of a commercial gallery while ‘gallerina’ denotes an administrative employee at a commercial gallery. ‘Gallerina’, unlike ‘gallerist’, is gendered, referring specifically to a junior female employee. A play on ‘ballerina’, the word evokes the svelte posture and favourable appointment of the young women employed in this front-of-house position; it implies a particular appearance as much as any particular professional role.

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