Art according to Matteo Renzi: the seven "best" renzian gimmicks in five years in office

All of Matteo Renzi's gimmicks in the area of art history in five years in office as mayor of Florence

By now he has become a regular presence, not a day goes by that I don’t see at least one appearance by Matteo Renzi on television or in the newspapers, so much so that when I don’t hear news about him or see his jolly face on the news, I almost get worried... maybe something has happened to him, maybe he is not feeling well, it is impossible for a day to go by without the mayor of Florence delighting the Italians with some of his gems, some of his political analyses, or some of his gimmicks. We who love art know that Renzi is also a great lover of art: in fact, throughout his term he has done everything to keep us occupied with his wonderful gimmicks. How boring it would have been without Renzi. Try telling that to Tomaso Montanari as well, Renzi has really provided him with a lot of material. And since his term will expire in a few months, could we at Windows on Art not go through the entire chronology of his seven best artistic gimmicks, year by year?

Renzi hasn’t even been mayor for four months but he gets right to work. For what? Right off the bat for what has been his greatest artistic feat since he has been mayor of Florence, namely the search for the lost Leonardo under Giorgio Vasari ’s frescoes in the Palazzo Vecchio. An article published in the New York Times in October1 lets us know how enthusiastic the newly appointed mayor is about the project (actually begun already under Leonardo Domenici’s tenure), and shortly thereafter Renzi, dressing up as Indiana Jones, will be the most ardent supporter of the search, which as we all know will end in nothing.

It is always Renaissance, but this time the protagonist is no longer Leonardo da Vinci but Michelangelo Buonarroti with his most famous work in the whole world, namely the David: in the middle of summer (evidently bored under the umbrella), Renzi, revisiting in a very picturesque way the history of Italy and the rules of law, would like the Michelangelo sculpture to become the property of the Municipality of Florence2, which according to the mayor would be the legitimate owner. Guess how the affair ended? With another predictable nothingness, but the bad thing is that at the time there were also those who took the Renzian stunt seriously.

It is still midsummer, and the protagonist is Michelangelo again, but this time no longer in the guise of sculptor but of architect: Renzi comes out with another magnificent stunt, namely that of building the facade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo according to the original Michelangelo design3. Again, the opinions of just about everyone who took Matteo Renzi seriously again were completely against it, so the pharaonic (or rather ... fanfare) project of building the unfinished facade remained nothing more than a fantasy of the indefatigable mayor of Florence. 2011 is also the year when the discussion about the search for the lost Leonardo intensified.

In February, Renzi comes out with a brilliant but above all innovative and forward-looking proposal: repaving Piazza della Signoria in terracotta4, as it was from the late 14th century until the 19th century. Again, the renzian gimmick was very short-lived: just long enough to be submerged in criticism (of the series: with all the problems in Florence, why throw away money on a useless repaving?). And again 2012 is the scene of the fifth gimmick of the review, that of turning “the Uffizi into a money machine,” a purpose launched by Renzi at the inauguration of the “Florens 2012” festival: "money to the Uffizi should not be given, money from the Uffizi should be taken: the Uffizi is a money machine, if we let it be managed in the right way, if the state finally decides to give those who manage it all the tools."5 But, what a pity, the Uffizi is still state-owned, and although there has certainly been no shortage of questionable initiatives there (for example, the parade - the first ever at the Uffizi - by Stefano Ricci6), Renzi will have to give up his sights on Florence’s most visited museum for a while.

2013 is the year of renting out public property to so-called “VIPs”: it starts big in January, with Ermanno Scervino holding an event in the PalazzoVecchio7. As can be seen from the photos in the links, the Salone dei Cinquecento is transformed into a set for a fashion show complete with the ever-present catwalk, and the hall of the lilies hosts a dinner instead. Dinner during which, according to, "the key word was only one: elegance,"8 although judging from the photo of Eva Riccobono and Asia Argento in front of the Chapel of Eleanor of Toledo, one would really say anything but, perhaps that the key word was the diametrically opposite one. We then end with the seventh and last stunt, probably the most obnoxious one: the renting out of Ponte vecchio to Ferrari9 for an “exclusive” dinner, but “exclusive” in the true sense of the word, because for a good six hours the bridge was closed for everyone (citizens, tourists and in general anyone who happened to be there and did not have an invitation for the party), creating quite a few inconveniences and stirring up quite a bit of controversy.

2013, therefore, was probably the most disturbing year because Renzi, having shed his “mystery seeker” and “grandiose project launcher” shoes, donned those of the “seller of public goods to the highest bidder,” excluding citizens from the enjoyment of the asset that should belong to everyone, but which actually turned out to be at the disposal of the most moneyed. With at least three aggravating factors: first, it sends the nefarious and shameful message that if you have money, no matter who you are, you can do what you want with an asset that belongs to everyone. The second: that Renzi, in connection with the lease of Ponte vecchio, declared "we did it, I would do it again, we will do it again,"10 so we should expect, unfortunately, more such initiatives. And not satisfied with this statement, Renzi added “also because it is an initiative that brought a million euros of induced revenue.” It is not quite clear how the mayor of Florence calculated this “million euros of induced revenue”: it is somewhat reminiscent of the “million jobs” à la Berlusconi (and Renzi is setting himself up, due proportion, almost as his spiritual heir). The third aggravating factor: even if we want to leave aside ethics and education and think only of the cash, it seems that of the phantom one hundred and twenty thousand euros disbursed by the Ferraristi for the benefit of the City of Florence, there is no trace11. Let’s be clear: this point is yet to be proven. But in case the allegations turn out to be true, not only would a public asset have been turned into a private area in defiance of all ethics and at this point also of any economic return, but even, to justify the operation, disabled children would have been brought up, and this would be of a monstrous meanness, let us hope that at least this cannot be true.

In the more or less near future, Matteo Renzi may become Prime Minister: should we start worrying?


1. John Tierney, A High-Tech Hunt for Lost Art, from New York Times, October 5, 2009.

2. Marco Gasperetti, State-commune of Florence clash over ownership of Michelangelo’s David, from Corriere della Sera, August 14, 2010.

3. San Lorenzo with Michelangelo’s facade. Renzi: “Referendum?” from La Nazione, July 25, 2011.

4. Mayor Renzi’s idea: "Piazza della Signoria paved in terracotta," from La Nazione, February 27, 2012.

5. Grand Uffizi, project halted. Renzi attacks the government: "Money must be taken," from Firenze Today, November 3, 2012.

6. Laura Antonini, Uffizi, fashion gallery. For Ricci, from Corriere della Sera, May 15, 2012.

7. Pitti, Ermanno Scervino’s fashion show: the designer embraced his city and says on Twitter, "I feel honored," from La Nazione, Jan. 10, 2013.

8. Valentina Bozzetti, Ermanno Scervino, glamorous party in Florence, from, January 11, 2013.

9. Rented the Ponte Vecchio for a dinner party: it’s a controversy, from Corriere Fiorentino, July 1, 2013.

10. Ferrari party at Ponte Vecchio: Renzi: “I would do it again, it brought a million euros in induced revenue,” from La Nazione, July 1, 2013.

11. Renzi, from the rent of Ponte Vecchio collected only 2,500 euros, from International Business Times, July 9, 2013.

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