Some thoughts on the appointment of Massimo Bray as minister of cultural heritage

An analysis and some thoughts on the appointment of Massimo Bray as minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities in the new government

In the end, the name that was chosen for the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities was that of Massimo Bray: originally from Lecce, born in 1959, the newly appointed minister studied in Florence, lives in Rome, and among his professional experiences boasts the editorial direction of theItalian Encyclopedia Institute and the presidency of the Notte della Taranta Foundation. He entered Parliament, among the ranks of the PD, just following the last elections. Finally, he keeps a blog that talks about culture on the Italian edition of the Huffington Post: a detail in my opinion of no small importance, because on his blog he has sometimes been seen responding to users’ comments, a sign that Massimo Bray could show openness to direct confrontation. Direct confrontation that could make Massimo Bray a symbol of change, since until now we have always been accustomed to a politics that is rather reluctant to confront citizens directly.

We can say that culture has done rather well with the appointment of Massimo Bray. He is a figure who has experience in his field, which is not entirely taken for granted in this newly formed government, and he is a new figure in politics, although his closeness to Massimo D’Alema has a discreetly longer life than that of his parliamentary activity, which began, as mentioned earlier, just after the last elections: in fact, Massimo Bray is also the editor-in-chief of the magazine Italianieuropei, the organ of the political culture foundation of the same name that was born on the initiative of several political figures including, precisely, D’Alema, who is the president of the foundation.

Massimo Bray’s task will not be easy: first because with the government that has just been formed, certain presences suggest that Bray is certainly not in good company. And then because he will have to turn around the fortunes of a MiBAC that, from Buttiglione onward, seems to have been almost wiped out and to have lost importance. To restore culture to the proper weight it should have in the fortunes of our country will require not only competence, which the newly appointed minister will certainly not lack, but also the firmness and decisiveness needed to restore culture to a central role in the life of the country after years in which it has been relegated to the sidelines with continuous cuts that have led Italy to be the country in Europe that invests the least in culture1.

From this point of view, Massimo Bray, at the moment, bodes well: in a post on his blog dated Feb. 5 of this year, he spoke precisely on the topic, on the subject of investment in culture. Bray writes: "Investing in Culture means investing in the future. [...] Culture, education are the foundations on which to create a competitive Italy, capable of defining equal starting conditions for all, indispensable to allow talents to express themselves and to contribute to the common welfare. [...] Investments in culture and education, which are essential conditions for growth, have instead often been thwarted by short-step visions, always linked not to projects but to the logic of extraordinary emergency and to the idea, albeit justified, that the money invested should immediately guarantee employment and tourism. Investment in Culture generates wealth and employment, but it must first and foremost be aimed at the preservation and enhancement of our incredible heritage. In short, it is not just a question of funding, but of the quality of spending and planning capacity."2 We therefore strongly feel the need for a minister who can bring forward these ideas, which are then nothing more than the ideas of the insiders and the ideas of the grassroots.

This is certainly a different way of looking at culture than that of Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, who until a few hours ago seemed to be the candidate in pole position for minister and who on her website speaks of culture more in terms of tourism, entertainment and cultural activities than in terms of education, investment and development. Mind you, we certainly do not think that tourism is of secondary importance to the country. But we strongly believe that culture, even before being a tourist attraction, should be an educational and training tool, because without culture and therefore without education, development and progress cannot exist either.

And speaking of tourism: the amalgamation of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities with the Ministry of Tourism has caused and will certainly cause discussion. What can we infer from this choice? For the time being, everything and nothing: it may be a positive signal to the extent that the new government can think of launching serious policies for the revival of tourism in our country, of which there is a very strong need, but it may also be a negative signal the moment the educational aspects of culture are subordinated to those of tourism. We tried, yesterday, to stimulate a discussion on this topic on our Facebook page, and opinions were mixed. There were those who said they were happy with the choice as they were glad that the new government might consider the idea of making the enhancement of cultural heritage and sustainable tourism go hand in hand, there were those who saw the amalgamation as a useful signal because it will lead to reductions in spending, and there were those who more simply saw the initiative as a novelty that will inevitably improve the situation of a cultural heritage that has fallen into deep darkness. However, there are also those, like our own Chiara Zucchellini, who express perplexity over the fact that two areas, such as cultural heritage and tourism, which need different competencies and each dedicated policies, as sectors in crisis and in need of revitalization, would need two different ministries. This is because it is true that cultural heritage and tourism often overlap, but an amalgamation would risk triggering a situation in which insufficient attention is given to the two sectors. Not to mention the fact that the formative and educational function of culture could fall by the wayside. But given Massimo Bray’s declarations of intent, we are confident that this will not happen.

Finally, there is one last aspect to consider: that of the role of the public and private sectors in managing the country’s cultural heritage. Again, another post by Massimo Bray on his blog contains a consideration on this topic: "Cultural assets are common goods, and as such should be brought back into the public sphere, which does not mean placing them under the direct control of politics, but being aware that their preservation and use must always be in the interest of the community. Culture so understood is not a commodity that can be bought and sold, appreciated or depreciated according to the utility of the moment."3 In an Italy where, lately, culture has been increasingly bent to marketing logics, in an Italy where cultural heritage has lately been increasingly seen precisely as a commodity to be traded or rented, there is a need for great renewal, and we strongly hope that Massimo Bray can be the great interpreter of this renewal.


1. Italy tail-end of school-culture spending, from ANSA, April 6, 2013.

2. Massimo Bray, Culture First, from Huffington Post, February 5, 2013.

3. Massimo Bray, For culture to become a boast again (in Parliament), from Huffington Post, February 22, 2013.

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.