Ferrara, three former aldermen against Sgarbi: "Damages image of Palazzo dei Diamanti and used it for election campaign"

Three former culture aldermen in Ferrara are harshly attacking Vittorio Sgarbi, current president of the Ferrara Arte Foundation, for his management of the Palazzo dei Diamanti.

Harsh attack by three former culture aldermen of the Municipality of Ferrara (Alberto Ronchi, Francesco Ruvinetti, and Massimo Maisto) against Vittorio Sgarbi, the current president of the Ferrara Arte Foundation, the entity responsible for organizing exhibitions at the Palazzo dei Diamanti and other important exhibition venues in the city. Sgarbi was appointed president of the foundation last November, following the elections that brought Leghist Alan Fabbri to the helm of the Municipality of Ferrara, which changed the city’s cultural leadership.

The problem, according to the three former culture aldermen (Ronchi from, 1999 to 2005, Ruvinetti from 1995 to 1999, and Maisto from 2007 to 2019) who wrote an open letter on the subject, is that Sgarbi’s presidency would not be up to the task: Ronchi, Ruvinetti, and Maisto object to the critic and art historian’s failure to confirm Maria Luisa Pacelli as director despite the excellent results(here is a recent interview he gave to our magazine on the subject), the attacks on the exhibitions already in place when he was appointed president, the lack of programming, and the poor quality of the only scheduled exhibition, the one dedicated to Banksy. In addition, the three former aldermen protest that in their opinion Sgarbi would use Palazzo dei Diamanti for his cmapaign for the recent regional elections. The whole thing would therefore risk damaging the image of Palazzo dei Diamanti. The former aldermen are therefore asking Mayor Fabbri to take over as president of the Foundation and identify a director who can guarantee Palazzo dei Diamanti quality and original exhibitions.

Below is the text of the open letter.

"The internationally recognized activity of the Municipality of Ferrara’s Gallerie dArte Moderna e Contemporanea and Ferrara Arte, an activity that, albeit at different times, we have come to know in depth in our roles as Councillors for Cultural Policies of the Municipality, has been built, developed and involved at least three generations of citizens.

It has been based essentially on the production and organization of original exhibitions with national and international collaborations and loans; the growth of a specialized staff in every area, from the study and conception, to the setting up, the welcoming of the public, the development of the ticket office and the bookshop, and the valuable attention to educational activities; and the publication of original catalogs edited by its own publishing house with important contributions from experts, again, national and international.

The three directorates that have succeeded each other from the mid-1960s to the present, Farina, Buzzoni, and Pacelli, have certainly expressed different cultural and organizational models that, at times, have provoked lively city debates, but always, in each case, they have guaranteed, each in their own way, the research, quality, and loriginality of the exhibitions proposed.

This long work has led Ferrara to be recognized as one of the most important cities on the national scene on the exhibition side and, as a result, has led to an exponential growth in tourism with fundamental economic spin-offs. Just at this time, two exhibitions are underway that confirm and recount what we are describing. ’De Nittis and the Revolution of the Gaze’ is a splendid exhibition that, by linking the work of the Barletta painter to the birth of photography and cinema, reveals previously unseen aspects in the artist’s work.

’The Franco Farina Collection. Art and the Avant-Garde in Ferrara 1963/1993’ focuses on the beginning of a prestigious path that with, among others, Man Ray, Andy Warol, Robert Raushenberg, just to name a few of the artists present in the city at the opening of their solo shows, has imposed Palazzo dei Diamanti to the attention of critics and the public. Present and past, certainly different, but always characterized by the originality and quality of the proposals.

The new administration and the mayor, after ensuring continuity to this fundamental experience, have, in fact, completely changed course. After the appointment of Hon. Vittorio Sgarbi as president of Ferrara Arte, they decapitated the structure by not confirming, as director, Maria Luisa Pacelli, despite the excellent results obtained, and by not providing for a new appointment in this role. The same debauched President publicly attacked the exhibition dedicated to De Nittis, complaining about ’excessive costs’ and inaugurating the unprecedented formula of a President who harshly and repeatedly criticizes the work of the Foundation he presides over. Not only that, the same President has seen fit, an unprecedented and, from our point of view, very serious fact, to use Palazzo dei Diamanti, in his own campaign for the recent regional elections.

At present, there appears to be no planning of upcoming activities, resulting in possible, serious damage to the organization of tourism in the city. Lun’s only announced exhibition is dedicated to the street artist Banksy, which, due to its characteristics, completely disrupts and risks damaging the laboriously constructed image of Palazzo dei Diamanti. Since 2016, seven exhibitions dedicated to the English artist have been organized in Italy alone, and ’Metamorphosis’, which produces the Ferrara exhibition, has planned and/or is planning three more, in addition to ours, in different Italian cities. What is worse is that Banksy himself, on his own website, defines all the ’solo exhibitions’ dedicated to him, including the one in Ferrara, with the adjective ’fake’ which translates as ’false’. All this transforms us from producers and, often, exporters into mere promiscuous containers of exhibitions held outside Ferrara, takes away the precious mark of originality, and risks jeopardizing relations with international museums. We cannot then fail to point out how recently the Council approved an agreement with the Cavallini Sgarbi Foundation for the use of the Castle. Others have pointed out the contradictions and weaknesses of this resolution. We simply note how, even in the case of this Foundation, the presidency is assumed by Hon. Vittorio Sgarbi. It seems clear to us that there is a risk of a conflict of interest, especially in the case where Ferrara Arte is called upon to collaborate, for whatever function, with the various exhibitions planned in the Castle and realized with the works of art owned by the Cavallini Sgarbi Foundation.

We believe it is legitimate for a new administration to propose a different cultural policy to the city, but this cannot mean the dismantling of an excellence such as Palazzo dei Diamanti, nor the monopolistic handing over of the city’s entire exhibition activity to a single entity. For all these reasons, we ask the Mayor to intervene, reassuming, in this delicate phase, the position of President of Ferrara Arte and identifying, in the ways he deems most appropriate, in compliance with the law and the statutes in force, a director who will be the guarantor of the quality and originality of the exhibitions set up at Palazzo dei Diamanti, allowing the continuation of a virtuous path that has positively characterized our city for more than fifty years.’

Alberto Ronchi, Francesco Ruvinetti, Massimo Maisto

Pictured: Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ph. Credit Ferrara Art Foundation

Ferrara, three former aldermen against Sgarbi:
Ferrara, three former aldermen against Sgarbi: "Damages image of Palazzo dei Diamanti and used it for election campaign"

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