On Thursday, May 25, an Italian regional court made a controversial ruling disrupting the culture ministry’s plan to revive the museum sector. After a high-profile recruitment campaign in 2015, the ministry hired twenty new directors for institutions across Italy. After two individuals who had applied and been rejected for the leadership positions filed complaints, the judges suspended five out of the twenty new appointments, citing a lack of transparency in the hiring process, The Local reports.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said that he was “speechless” after the ruling, adding that he plans to appeal the decision made by the Lazio administrative court. The five ousted directors include Martina Bagnoli at the Galleria Estense in Modena; Paolo Giulierini at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples; Eva Degl’Innocenti at the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto; Carmelo Malacrino at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria; and Peter Assmann at the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua.
While the court questioned the ministry’s decision to nominate foreigners for the positions, only one of the five was a foreigner, Assmann, an art historian from Austria. Yet it approved other foreign candidates including the German director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.
The judges declared that the interviews conducted via Skype were not sufficient and that they were confused about how the ministry ranked the candidates. The culture ministry fired back, saying that the process was “in accordance with not only European and national law but also with the highest international standards, as recognized by the International Council of Museums.”
Franceschini conceived of the recruitment plan to bring foreign expertise to Italian cultural institutions, which until 2015 were only allowed to appoint Italians, and to increase revenue. The ministry has credited an increase of 7.5 million annual visitors over three years to the country’s museums in 2016 to the leadership shakeup.