19/11/08 — Museums — Italy — France was the first country to establish a system, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, for leasing its masterpieces out on a large scale to foreign museums. We had warned of the danger of setting a precedent, as the Louvre in particular was an example for most museums. It seems that Berlusconi’s Italy, and this will surprise no one alas, is going to outdo the original model. In fact, just like in France, the ministry budget is going to be reduced drastically : one billion euros will be cut over a period of three years.
The Minister of Cultural Affairs, Sandro Bondi wishes to implement a new policy starting next year. First off, works will be leased “in America and to Arabia”. Alain Elkann, an advisor to the Minister who went to the United States a month ago to meet directors from eleven museums, in the role of travelling salesman, thus stated : “The model is the Louvre, who besides lending a part of its collection to Abou Dhabi passed an agreement with a museum in Atlanta, Georgia which will bring in 6 million dollars for the Parisian institution .”
In order to carry out the “plan for museums and archeological sites”, a “Super manager” [sic] for museums, with full powers, has just been named by the Minister, without going through the usual screening and selection of applicants.
The lucky winner is Mario Resca, 62, a friend of Silvio Berlusconi, head of McDonald’s Italy (yes, the hamburger chain) until 2007 and who has since directed a gambling casino. He of course has no knowledge or experience in museums or art history. This in no way represents a problem for him since he said in a statement to La Repubblica that he didn’t know anything about restaurants before taking over McDonald’s ! He also thinks that museum works are “an oil field with zero cost” and that his role will be to “increase the value [of this] wealth .”
This appointment has obviously set off an uproar in Italy. The association Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli, an institute for study, research and training founded by Giulio Carlo Argan, has decided to launch an appeal to international scholars to join in opposition. The text of this call can be found here (or on the association’s website), as well as directions for signing. There is not much time as the decree which will give legal powers to the decision goes into effect on 28 November. The goal is to collect as many signatures as possible by 25 November 2008. This is an emergency and your signature is needed.
To sign, you can send a mail to :
with your first and last names, occupation, institution and city.