The government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has pledged to overhaul Italy’s ruling elite, appointed foreigners to head its most prestigious museums for the first time.
The culture ministry said in a statement non-Italians will head seven of the 20 main museums including the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery in Florence, the Capodimonte Museum in Naples and the Brera Gallery in Milan. A spokesman for the ministry said foreigners had never headed Italian state museums before. Half of the new heads are women.
The appointments are “a historic step for Italy and its museums which makes up for years of lost time,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement.
Germany’s Eike Schmidt, the new head of the Uffizi Gallery, has worked at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and at Sotheby’s in London.
The appointments are “a serious mistake,” art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, a former culture ministry undersecretary in former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government, told AGI newswire. “It’s not as if foreigners are automatically more competent” than Italians.
The appointments are part of a drive to make museums more profitable, attract private investors and forge partnerships with foreign counterparts. In 2014, a total of 40.2 million people visited state-run cultural sites in Italy, up 6.2 percent on the previous year, the ministry said.