Museum directors and TAR rulings: all comments


We have collected the main comments of politicians, journalists and intellectuals on the museum directors-trial judgement affair.

There have been several comments following the Lazio Regional Administrative Court’s ruling annulling the appointment of five state museum directors. We have collected some of them in this article.

The Minister of Cultural Heritage, Dario Franceschini, expressed his disagreement and concern: The world has seen Italian museums change in 2 years and now the Lazio Regional Administrative Court cancels the appointments of 5 directors. I have no words and it is better... I am worried about the figure Italy makes with the rest of the world, and the practical consequences because from today some museums are without a director.

Matteo Renzi said, We can no longer be a republic based on quibbling and recourse. We did not go wrong because we tried to change museums: we went wrong because we did not try to change the Tar.

La 7 news director Enrico Mentana jokes: The time has come to give the Lazio Tar a foreign president.

Likewise Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery: Me worried about the ruling? I was much more shocked when the centurions won with the help of the Tar, and they went back to the Colosseum it looked like a Crozza sketch, instead it was reality. Then he adds, “It is clear that if decisions that give prevalence to small interests prevail over the common good and the interests of the state and the community, if the borders to Europe and the world were somehow closed, it would really be an own goal, for Italian culture; and also for the economy.”

Other foreign directors have commented on the ruling. Paestum director Gabriel Zuchtriegel said, “Onward with or without me. I hope that research, protection and enhancement in Italian museums will go forward, with or without Zuchtriegel. As for the Tar, I do not go into the merits. In my opinion, it is important that the path that has produced significant results in Paestum is not conditioned by ’personalia’.”Peter Aufreiter, director of the National Gallery of the Marches in Urbino, said: I am calm, I do my job with enthusiasm and success, like the other foreign museum directors appointed by Minister Franceschini: for me the reform is 100 percent right.

The two art critics Philippe Daverio and Vittorio Sgarbi also commented. The former said, “The new directors brought a new and successful mentality while the TAR took almost three years for the ruling: the contradiction is too great, if you break the relationship between reality and its infrastructure comes the revolution. The endless stupidity of the TAR is a symptom of a pre-revolutionary phase,” the second on the other hand: From the Lazio TAR impeccable decision from the normative point of view. The problem is not the Tribunal, but the appointment criteria that must be changed [ ]. The Tar only reiterated that, according to the terms of the announcement, the recruitment of public administration executives (because directors are considered such) was to be reserved only for Italian candidates, as provided by Decree Law 165 of 2001.

I cinque direttori sospesi delle sentenze del Tar: Peter Assmann, Martina Bagnoli, Eva Degli Innocenti, Paolo Giulierini, Carmelo Malacrino
The five directors suspended from the Tar rulings: Peter Assmann, Martina Bagnoli, Eva Degli Innocenti, Paolo Giulierini, Carmelo Malacrino

Decidedly contrasting is the opinion of Tomaso Montanari: The point is very simple: a law (not fascist: novated in 2001) says that public management positions are reserved for those with Italian citizenship. One can argue about its goodness. I do not find it nonsensical: many jobs, complex systems depend on managers. In many cases strategic sectors are at stake. And this is the case in all countries. Franceschini shouts that the National Gallery is run by an Italian: but he forgets to mention that that Italian is a British citizen. [ ] Won’t it be time to start saying that it is not enough to do things, but to do them well? Didn’t Italy’s embarrassment come from an incompetent minister surrounded by incompetents? The Tar says that the interviews to select directors were too hasty, and were held behind closed doors. And that therefore the rights of the contestants were not respected. If this is true, it is a serious thing. And I know that it is true. That competition was conducted very badly, bordering on farce, for the same reason Franceschini did not change the law: because of the damned media rush to be able to say he had done something. Besides: are we sure that museums are measured only by numbers? In Brera, many Renaissance panels have suffered serious damage because of the new director’s carelessness. Palazzo Pitti has become a quarry of valuable works on loan for political reasons, and a set for fancy private bachelor parties. At the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, a furniture fair is being held. And nowhere is more research done, that is, no more knowledge is produced. Museums now resemble prized funfairs: and the losers are ordinary citizens, who do not have many other opportunities to grow culturally. The next minister for cultural heritage will have to dismantle the Franceschini reform stone by stone, mistake by mistake. This Tar ruling can be a good start.

The president of the Higher Council for Cultural Heritage and Activities, Giuliano Volpe says: A blow to culture. If you question everything, then the competitions do it by the Tar. There is too much formalism, Italy is a country where the Tar decides, a country that does not value substance and merit, but quibbles. At this point there is a risk of triggering more appeals to foreign directors, for example. It would be shocking that a culturally revolutionary reform is defeated by quibbles.

The director general of Museums at the Ministry of Culture, Ugo Soragni, feels compelled to intervene to point out the fact that this affair is being used to attack the scaffolding of the reform by people with no expertise, who speak out on these issues while being unfamiliar with the complex mechanisms of the ministry. I find this unbearable. I think of Tomaso Montanari and the other so-called intellectuals who are wielding the judgments against the reform as a whole. Let them do their job, and let us do ours.

The mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala,also spoke: I don’t know the reasons for the ruling; I say that dealing with public affairs in Italy is really difficult. It seems that at all times, everything is written in the sand. You should also look at the results Franceschini has achieved: in the three-year period, visitors to exhibitions and major national museums in Italy increased by 20 percent. So some help to someone who does a difficult work is that he seems to do it as well as Franceschini, should be given. As for the position of the director of the Pinacoteca di Brera, the mayor is concerned, because James Bradburne is doing an egregious job, and having to start over again would seem to me to be the wrong thing to do.

Antonio Decaro, mayor of Bari and president of the National Association of Italian Municipalities, says he is surprised by the Tar’s rulings: “The rulings by which the Tar rejected the appointments of five supermanagers of Italian museums surprise me. I have always supported the Franceschini reform because I sincerely believe in the opportunity to involve high managerial personalities, and therefore not necessarily exclusively Italian, in the revitalization of the country’s cultural and artistic heritage. An important voice in the Italian economy.”

In thesame vein, Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, undersecretary for cultural heritage, expresses herself: “A ruling that leaves one truly perplexed, and which I hope the Council of State will correct following the already announced appeal by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage. Perplexed both by the principle of alleged discrimination in the face of an international call for tenders and by the absolute lack of consideration for the excellent work done so far by the new Directors, who have actively contributed to catching up with the delay accumulated by our country in the enhancement of cultural heritage.”

Hard against Minister Franceschini, on the other hand, is Franca Falletti, former director of the Accademia Gallery in Florence: “Apart from the fact that Minister Franceschini should learn to make or have made laws that do not go against those that already (rightly or wrongly) exist, everyone judge where the real scandal of this story lies: in the Tar’s ruling, in the way the competition was conducted or in the manipulation of the news?”

Gian Arturo Ferrari ’seditorial in Corriere della Sera focuses on the nationality of the directors: “it must be remembered and emphasized that the word ”foreigner“ when speaking of culture not only has no meaning nor any legitimacy from the point of view of common decency, but that it properly does not exist. Works of art, like all creations of the human mind, have no passports or citizenship. And those who deal with them professionally reflexively enjoy a kind of extraterritoriality, they belong intimately to something that has no borders, they deserve to be considered for this characteristic of theirs and not for the geographical coordinates of the place where they had the good fortune to be born.”

Also very critical is Pierangelo Sapegno, who in the pages of Artslife speaks of a resounding own goal: “we have no choice but to surrender to reality. Very good Italian officials will return to our museums and do what they had always done until two years ago. When things were not going so well. Are you sure it doesn’t matter?”

Finally, he calls for overcoming divisions in Federico Diamanti Giannini ’seditorial in Windows on Art: “the two rulings of the Tar are in danger of taking us back two years, and the effects of the eventual annulment of the appointments could be decidedly unpleasant: museums will be in serious danger of being without their directors for a long period of time, and the foreseeable stalemate, during which it is to be expected that only dordinaria attività will be carried out by deputies appointed ad interim, will result in lack of planning, projects destined to come to a halt, great uncertainty about the future. Italy’s leading museums certainly cannot afford such a situation: it is therefore necessary for all parties to overcome divisions and collaborate in order to anticipate events and to begin to wonder what might happen in the immediate future and how to emerge in the most brilliant and least painful way from the conditions that might be created after the Council of State makes its ruling.”


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