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Celebrating female power from SAMA's collection

Since its creation in 2012, Street Art Museum of Amsterdam has always had a global and inclusive perspective on the artists in its collection. If we consider street art as a practice with strong social-critical potential and aimed at changing the status quo of the current dominant system, it is just as logical to think that SAMA's artists team is made up of a wide selection of authors with regard to issues of social, economic, gender and cultural inclusion.

The result of this multicultural effort has allowed the creation of a collection that is not only centred on local production and the canonical tradition of urban art, but rather of observing with attention the principal movements coming from different continents and integrating to its vision of an "anti-hegemonic" museum a social, cultural and critical effort. This drive towards inclusion is also reflected in the gender parity present in SAMA, which is currently aiming to increase the presence of female artists in its collection, who currently make up 25-30% of the total artists (Btoy, Bastardilla, Orticanoodles, Bunny Brigade, Sandrin Boulet, Pau, Ledania, Zas, Minivila, Nineta, Daniela Frongia, Kiki Skipi). The main objective of this action is to dispel the false myth of street art as a purely male subculture and as a practice carried out only by men: there are a myriad of female artists in the world of urban art and it is one of SAMA's duties to push for their promotion, discovery and valorisation.

Today we would like to focus attention on one of the many female figures that form part of our collection: Btoy, a Spanish artist who has been working with SAMA since 2012, the year of its foundation.

Btoy is one of the first women who stepped out onto the urban art movement of Barcelona with a personal stencil art technique focused on colour, light and shadow to create realistic and powerful portraits. Half spanish and half uruguayan, she is a self-taught artist that broke into the Spanish graffiti panorama in the early 2000’s. Since then, Btoy began to vigorously investigate feminism, stereotyped gender roles and identities, and to express her own identity through her work, choosing the streets as her medium for their freedom from convention, their hidden moods, memories, and stories. As the same artist said in occasion of Magic Dozen exhibition:

“My central axis is a feminist reflection, maintaining a certain ambiguity in gender identity – a self-struggle of those stereotyped roles, foolish rivalries to visualise in behaviour, the self-liberation of dignity between forgetfulness and memories of spaces desolated by time.”

Take a closer look at one of the artist's most iconic works:

Courage is a stencil-mural created in 2015 in Lodewijk van Deysselstraat and forms part of a larger series dedicated to the figure of Amelia Mary Earhart. This American aviatrix became famous in 1932 for being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, repeating her achievement shortly afterwards in 1935 in the Pacific Ocean and being the first person ever to do so. She is a well-known figure in the common feminist imaginary because she summarises the feminist equal efforts in the labour world in the first half of the 20th century: in spite of the difficulties she faced because of her condition as a woman, Amelia was able to transcend the limits and take important steps for the emancipation of women at that time.

Btoy dedicates a series of portraits to her within the SAMA collection to metaphorically represent the global power of street art: an artistic practice that transcends the limits of spatiality, institutions and the dominant system to tell a free and critical rhetoric against social injustice. Besides, as the artist herself says:

“I make new aesthetic proposals within urban art to question the collective naturalisation of patriarchy that [hierarchies] bodies and diversities, both in different cultural, historical and social cohesion spheres – very vague approaches in which serious educational deficiencies predominate in questions of equality, distrust of criticism and self-criticism, mirages towards decorative overcrowding, such as false artistic empowerment.”

Btoy is therefore a unique example of our collection and a source of great pride with the dozens of works donated by the artist adorning the public walls of our institution. In addition to her, we cannot forget the many other female artists in our collection: the very well known Latin artist Bastardilla, famous for her social murals; Alita from the Italian group Orticanoodles, Daniela Frongia with her enchanting textil-graffiti, the urban sculptures by Sandrin Boulet, but also Bunny Brigade Pau, Ledania, Zas, not forgetting Minivila, Nineta and Kiki Skipi: a great range of female artists destined only to grow as of 2021!

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