If renting a room at the Uffizi costs as much as a table at Billionaire. Reflections on the fee schedule

Tomaso Montanari has released the fee schedule with prices for renting Florentine state museums. We propose a reflection on the topic.

In the last few hours, in Il Fatto Quotidiano, art historian Tomaso Montanari has divulged some of the figures of the fee schedule for the concession of the Polo Museale Fiorentino ’s spaces for events, a fee schedule that will be presented by Cristina Acidini on Tuesday, July 231.

In the meantime, it is worth pointing out that renting per se is nothing new: it has been at least since 1993 that public cultural assets can be “rented” to private individuals due to the Ronchey Law (No. 4 of January 14, 1993) and subsequent expansions in Legislative Decree 42 of January 22, 2004, better known as the Cultural Heritage Code. Specifically, the Code states, in Article 106, that “The Ministry, regions and other public territorial bodies may grant the use of the cultural assets they have in consignment, for purposes compatible with their cultural destination, to individual applicants” in Paragraph 1 and that “for assets in consignment to the Ministry, the superintendent shall determine the fee due and adopt the relevant measure” in Paragraph 2. Legislative Decree No. 156 of March 24, 2006 supplemented what was written in the Code by introducing, in Article 106, paragraph 2-bis, according to which “For assets other than those indicated in paragraph 2, the concession for use is subject to the authorization of the Ministry, issued on the condition that the transfer guarantees the preservation and public enjoyment of the asset and the compatibility of the intended use with the historical-artistic character of the asset is ensured. Prescriptions for the better preservation of the asset may be dictated with the authorization.”

So in short, up to now it has been possible (and will also be possible in the future) to grant private parties, for a fee, the use of public property, subject to authorization by the Ministry, which, on a case-by-case basis, must ascertain that the concession does not preclude the preservation and public enjoyment of the property and that the destination of use is compatible with the historical-artistic character of the cultural property. It was necessary to make this clarification because there is much ignorance on the subject. And, as is almost always the case in Italy, when there is a discussion going on, on any topic, many people tend to take it as if it were a soccer game: either black or white. There are few who try to reconcile and see gray: we believe we are among them, among those who try to mediate positions and who reject radical positions. So let us see why Tomaso Montanari’s article has caused a stir in the world of cultural heritage and why it has aroused, at least in us, indignation. And let us also see, in the end, what might be an intelligent way to put Article 106 of the Code to good use.

Montanari, in his article, previews some of the fees that should be contained in the document to be presented by Cristina Acidini, fees that, according to Montanari, should be assigned “depending on what the private individual wants to do with it: Whether to visit it alone on the closing day (8,000 euros plus 100 light to pay for the Uffizi), or have it available for a cocktail party (5,000 for the Uffizi Gallery, 7,000 for the Piazzale della Meridiana in Boboli, 10 thousand for the Cortile dellAmmannati in Palazzo Pitti), for a dinner (10 thousand for the Uffizi and Palatina Gallery, 15 thousand for the Cortile dellAmmannati), or a fashion show (20 thousand euros for the Costume Gallery, 150 thousand for the Uffizi Gallery).”

On the Polo Museale Fiorentino website there are no rates yet, but there are photos of the locations, at this link. For the Uffizi, we have photos of the terrace and the east corridor, plus a photo of the view of Ponte Vecchio as seen from the museum corridors. For the Accademia Gallery we have none other than the Prison Gallery. For the Museo Nazionale di San Marco we find photos of the cloister, the hospice hall, the large refectory and the small refectory. Then we have the courtyard of the Bargello, the hall of Perugino in the convent of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, the cenacle of Fuligno, and a great many other places. Let’s make it clear that we are not opposed regardless to the concession of public cultural property to private individuals, but some fundamental problems need to be highlighted, and we could start precisely with the locations.

Organizing an event entails logistical problems: in the event that a private individual wants to rent the Prison Gallery (just to give an example) for an event, no matter what kind, would the Polo Museale Fiorentino guarantee the normal use of the space during the opening hours of the Accademia Gallery? Between October and November 2012, the Accademia Gallery hosted threeconcerts2 that were all held on Mondays, the day the museum is closed: a sign that in order to set up a concert in the Prison Gallery, preparations are necessary that may interfere with the normal enjoyment of the museum. What would happen if a private individual wanted to hold an event in the Prison Gallery on a Saturday? Would the Polo Museale Fiorentino not look visitors in the face and put cash reasons first? Or would the private party be invited to rent the Gallery on a more favorable day? Or, as would be more reasonable, for “rentals,” does the fee schedule also indicate times when the private party can take advantage of the spaces and times when it cannot?

Then there is a serious problem about the intended use. We have always been in favor of initiatives aimed at making the museum even more alive: we are young people and we think in particular about young people, we also talked about it in an article here on Windows on Art(Young people and museums: possible ways to make the union feasible), in which we greeted in a positive way some initiatives put in place by certain museums (for example, the MADRE Museum in Naples, which organized evenings with DJ sets in its spaces, not to mention the many museums that offer art aperitifs: these include the museums of the Polo Museale Fiorentino). Initiatives aimed at making the museum more attractive and inviting the public to admire the art masterpieces perhaps while sipping a spritz. What we don’t like, and what seems shameful to us, is absolutely not the fact that you can drink a spritz in front of a painting or sculpture (on the contrary, it is a very nice idea): what we don’t like is the potential parterre.

Indeed, it is one thing to have a potential parterre composed of the friends of the so-called “VIP” on duty who rents the museum hall for his “exclusive” (but in the sense that it excludes the public from enjoying the museum), strictly trashy and strictly by invitation only, cafĂ© party. We have said it again and again: it would send the very shameful message that any wealthy Trimalcione can do whatever he wants with a public asset just by using his own money. Also because anyone who can afford a table at Billionaire can easily rent a location at the Uffizi Gallery: according to the rates circulated by Montanari, the prices would be the same as for the Billionaire tables (indeed: the five thousand euro table is the one for the derelicts)3.

It is another matter to grant the use of the spaces, for example, to an event organization company that wants to organize an aperitif open to anyone: not only would this be a nice initiative, but it would also be useful for everyone. First, for the public, who by participating in the aperitif could discover the works of art, perhaps with ad hoc visits following the aperitif or, why not, benefiting from a convention that would get them, for the following day, a reduction on the entrance fee to the museum where the event is held. Then for the host museum, since it would benefit from the concession fee paid by the event organizing company (let’s be clear: money for us is not the devil, it is a means that should be-we use the conditional because in reality it probably is not-used for the benefit of all, not just as many people as possible). Then, the event organizing company, in addition to benefiting economically and in terms of publicity, could hire specialized tour guides for the event to tell participants about the works of art. This would trigger a virtuous circle that:

  • creates jobs
  • spreads knowledge of the historical and artistic heritage
  • makes the museum a place even more to experience and even more vital
  • guarantees income for the museum

All this without the main purpose being to bring home the fee, a concern that for many seems to be the main concern. On the contrary: since this is the problem for many, let’s just say that to get more money it would be enough to recover some of thetax evasion that causes us 180 billion euros of damage each year4 (compared to MiBAC’s annual budget of about 1.5 billion euros)5. At the risk of being repetitive: the organization of events in museums should not be seen as a mere means of making money, but as an expedient to bring the public to the museum, to bring the museum to life, to create jobs, and to offer the public the opportunity to discover art in different contexts than usual.

And this could also be a proposal to really make the fee schedule pay off, but in every sense of the word. The “sacredness” of the museum would not be diminished. But always keeping in mind that the ultimate purpose of the museum is to educate. On the other hand, those who put before the educational role the transformation of the museum into a location for questionable dinners or parties for the sole purpose of making money are probably better off changing professions or doing something else. And let them be ashamed.


1. Tomaso Montanari, Florence, here’s the fee schedule for renting Uffizi or Ponte Vecchio and having a cocktail, from Il Fatto Quotidiano, July 20, 2013.

2. Cf. “Music Back to Music - three concerts around an exhibition,” event sheet at firenzeturismo.it

3. Linda Irico, Briatore opens Billionaire in Marbella, tables from 5,000 euros and no standing room..., from Affari italiani, July 6, 2012.

4. How much is being evaded? 180 billion a year, from L’Espresso, July 2, 2013.

5. Cultural heritage: Bray, all government must make clear choices, from ADN Kronos reported on Yahoo! News, July 1, 2013

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