Eike Schmidt: "At the Uffizi no one has lost their jobs, and the exhibitions will be rescheduled. For Raphael we will do what we can."

Eike Schmidt gives an interview to the Foreign Press Association in Italy: no one at the Uffizi has lost their jobs, the exhibitions will be rescheduled, and for the Raphael exhibition in Rome everything will be done.

The director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike D. Schmidt returned today to speak on the topic of coronavirus (after the first interview, given to Finestre sull’Arte), with a new intervention in a live online with theForeign Press Association in Italy (the video will be posted soon on their Facebook page).

The first point of the intervention concerns economic damage and jobs. In fact, Schmidt assured that, despite the losses, no one at the Uffizi has lost their jobs: this applies both to employees and to external collaborators working on direct assignment for the museum (as opposed to what is happening in the U.S., where many external collaborators have lost their assignments). “In about two months of shutdown,” Schmidt said, “we have lost several million visitorsand more than 10 million euros. The Uffizi has broad shoulders: if this situation does not last very long, we can certainly handle it. A closure of up to three months we can handle it. But if, on the other hand, it were to last until the arrival of a vaccine, currently announced for next spring, we would have to think more radically about how to shift investments to next year, or perhaps even the year after. That said, it is important to never forget that this closure is about saving lives: right now this is the priority; only when the emergency is over can we worry about the numbers. It is also important to emphasize that no one at the Uffizi Galleries has lost their jobs. Everyone is working from home, involved in smart working projects. In this regard, it is important to emphasize how well, very, very well it is working, not least because of the daily or weekly reporting of work done. We have been able to transfer some administrative processes from paper to digital. It’s a big step forward in digitization, and we would like to bring these advances into the new daily life of the museum; to include the agile work-from-home component as part of the normal work, because it’s better for the environment, it’s better for the social fabric, and it’s better for the productivity and the functioning of the museum itself.”

Schmidt let it be known that the Uffizi is already working to plan for the restart: “we are all working on measures and timelines, we are doing it in close contact and with the coordination of the ministry, and there will be a unified communication from Mibact that, just to avoid any possible any uncertainty or misunderstanding, will provide in due time all the information for everyone on the timing and modalities of the reopening. As for the reopening, I think there will be a huge demand from the public when this situation is over. The strategies we will adopt to handle it will be the same as we adopted two years ago to encourage the ’slow museum’ that is, longer, quiet, extended, ’art relaxation’ visits. And obviously disfavor the look-and-run, selfie-and-run, as you might call it.”

The reopening of activities will also come through exhibitions: those that were forced to close will all be rescheduled. “I would like to reassure everyone about an absolute certainty of the reopening of the Uffizi,” said the director: “all the exhibitions that were planned and now suspended will be held. Not a single exhibition will be canceled. Already now we have three ready to be re-commissioned. Our major exhibition dedicated to the seventeenth-century painter Giovanna Garzoni should have opened the day after the closure (March 9). This exhibition is already set up and will start a few days after the reopening. Then we have another exhibition, on medieval illuminated manuscripts recovered by the Carabinieri’s Commando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (Cultural Heritage Protection Command), which will start in the following weeks. And then a third exhibition, focusing on the great painter of the early 19th century, Florentine but of European importance, Giuseppe Bezzuoli. This is the first major monograph on this exceptional artist, whose five works we have bought in recent years and to whom we want to restore the place in the history of European art, between neoclassicism and realism, that he deserves. Finally, the exhibition on footwear in the classical world and its influence in contemporary film and fashion will reopen, remaining extended until September (and if necessary for longer).”

Schmidt is also hopeful about the major exhibition dedicated to Raphael at the Scuderie del Quirinale (this is a show organized in collaboration with the Uffizi, which has loaned as many as 49 works for the exhibition). The museum will therefore do everything possible to have it extended: “I have already reassured the president of the Scuderie,” Schmidt said, "that we are willing to leave all our works on display, even much longer than planned. This is an epoch-making exhibition, and we are willing to put all the effort that is necessary to allow as many people as possible to visit it live. Not least because the Raphael Cinquecentario lasts until December 31. I will personally put my commitment and that of the Galleries and also to motivate other lenders to leave their works longer. This exhibition, I will not tire of repeating, is central to promoting the knowledge and culture of Raphael, and it is central to Italy. To defend it, we are ready for anything, ’whatever it takes.

Finally, a passage on online activities: ’virtual museum visits will never replace real visits. They are two different, mutually reinforcing experiences. Of course the real visit has to become a quieter, more thoughtful experience; you can’t come to a museum to take a picture and run away. Cinema has not destroyed the theater as was feared. They are two different cultural forms. Similarly, the moment soccer games began to be televised, this did not reduce spectators in the stadiums, quite the opposite. All of our exhibitions and virtual initiatives are free. This does not mean that in the future we cannot think about very special and circumscribed virtual initiatives that are chargeable, but this can never be an ordinary way in which the Uffizi offers its treasures to the public, because they belong to everyone."

Pictured is Eike Schmidt

Eike Schmidt:
Eike Schmidt: "At the Uffizi no one has lost their jobs, and the exhibitions will be rescheduled. For Raphael we will do what we can."

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