Key museum contracts in Italy set to expire soon.
Italy’s right-wing government has given a further signal that the practice of hiring foreign directors for top Italian museums could be coming to an end, following new remarks by culture undersecretary Vittorio Sgarbi.
“The foreign directors of the big museums are now leaving. We arrived and they leave” – Sgarbi said in Viareggio on Sunday – “Why do I have to put a foreign director in the Uffizi? Have you ever seen a foreigner in the Louvre?”
Sgarbi’s views on the subject are nothing new however this time the outspoken art critic is speaking as deputy to Gennaro Sangiuliano who became culture minister last October under premier Giorgia Meloni.
In 2014, Sangiuliano’s left-wing predecessor Dario Franceschini announced radical reforms of how Italy managed its museum sector, introducing a transparent public selection process to hire the best qualified directors or “super managers” from either Italy or abroad.
At the time Sgarbi lashed out at the move as “a slap in the face for Italy”.
The reforms led to Rome giving seven out of 20 top museum jobs to non-Italians, including Germans Eike Schmidt at the Uffizi and Cecilie Hollberg at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, and British-Canadian James Bradburne at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.
The foreign directors went on to spearhead a series of successful innovations in their respective museums however the contracts for many of these top positions are set to expire later this year.
Under new rules drawn up by a committee appointed by Sangiuliano, those applying for museum directorships in Italy will have to display proficiency in the Italian language.
This has led critics to accuse the government of nationalism and the politicisation of culture.
Addressing these charges, Sangiuliano told The Washington Post on Monday that he expected that some qualified foreigners would still run Italian museums after the next wave of hiring.
However, the newspaper reports, the minister “conceded that he would seek to strike a new “balance” after what he suggested were overzealous attempts to court non-Italians” in the past.