Italy separates from foreign directors of its major museums

Italy. This is the end of several weeks of rumors which had kept the Italian cultural world in suspense. The new directors of some of the most important museums on the Peninsula were appointed on December 15 following an international public selection. Of the 300 initial candidates, ten per museum were selected, three of whom passed the oral examination before a commission of five experts – a commission whose composition had sparked controversy. Its members were all Italian and only one, Daniela Porro, was an art historian. As for the call for applications, it favored national profiles. Nothing surprising for a nationalist government which had criticized the use of foreigners to revive the main transalpine cultural institutions. His Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, assured at the start of the year that he had “no prejudice towards foreigners”but he found “particular, and a sign of a certain provincialism, the fact that ten major Italian museums are directed by foreigners. As if, in the country which has recognized universities in the field of cultural heritage and art history, there were no competent profiles. »

Return to national preference

The management of four first-rate museums, symbols of the Franceschini reform which granted them, ten years ago, broad autonomy, is therefore renewed. The foreigners are all replaced by Italians. The only exception is the German Eike Dieter Schmidt, the highly publicized director of the Florence Offices. It is up to him to have the honor of inaugurating the “Grand Capodimonte” in 2025. He replaces the Frenchman Sylvain Bellenger who carried out the vast renovation and modernization project of the Neapolitan museum. Eike Dieter Schmidt had been coveting this position for several months. Enjoying excellent relations with the Minister of Culture, he has just obtained Italian citizenship. An essential document to possibly satisfy his other great, barely veiled ambition: to enter politics. Municipal elections take place next year in the capital of Tuscany and the right, looking for a prestigious name to conquer this traditionally left-wing city, would like to nominate him as its candidate. The main interested party has announced that he is considering it and will make his decision in January.

Leaders with unique backgrounds

Florence reserves the big surprise of this first wave of nominations. Simone Verde leaves the Pilotta monumental complex in Parma to take charge of the Uffizi Gallery which has just broken the record of 5 million visitors this year. No one had bet on this 48-year-old Roman, a graduate of the École du Louvre and a doctoral student in anthropology of cultural goods at EHESS in Paris, and who worked at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. He left Parma at the end of a six-year project at a cost of more than 22 million euros which “revolutionized” this abandoned museum when he arrived there in 2017. The inauguration of the “new Pilotta” with great fanfare this fall had impressed Gennaro Sangiuliano. “If proof were needed of the need for museum autonomy, it is without a doubt one of the clearest and most luminous,” commented the Minister of Culture.

His other choices are much less commented on despite more atypical profiles. Renata Cristina Mazzantini becomes director of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome. This trained architect specializing in energy requalification was until now an advisor to the Presidency of the Republic. She takes the place of Cristiana Collu who profoundly overhauled the museum’s exhibition route. The British James Bradburne hands over his chair as director of the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan to Angelo Crespi. This 55-year-old journalist and art critic, close to those in power, directed the Maga Museum in Gallarate.

Regarding the new directors of the second-tier museums, the final decision rested with Massimo Osanna, the general director of the Italian national museums. The art historian Costantino D’Orazio will direct the National Gallery of Umbria, his colleague Thomas Clement Salomon is placed at the head of the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome Palazzo Barberini-Galleria Corsini. Lawyer, museologist and exhibition organizer, he distinguished himself as responsible for numerous projects for the Borghese Gallery. Lawyer and biographer Alessandra Necci takes over the management of the Estensi Galleries in Modena despite a total absence of professional experience in the cultural or museum sector. When coming to power, Giorgia Meloni had nevertheless promised to put an end to“cultural hegemony of the left and with the feeling of inferiority of the right” For “to free Italian culture from a system in which one could only work by declaring oneself from a certain political camp”. Change everything so that nothing changes…

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