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MAXXI Museum, Rome. Photo: Artur Salisz/Flickr.
MAXXI Museum, Rome. Photo: Artur Salisz/Flickr.

Italian Museum Directors Demand National Fund for Culture

More than 2,450 cultural figures and prominent members of the Italian arts scene, including Roberto Cicutto, the president of the Venice Biennale; Gabriella Belli, the head of the civic museums of Venice; and Hou Hanru, the artistic director of the MAXXI Museum in Rome, are petitioning the Italian government to set up a national fund for culture. The call for federal arts funding comes amid the global health crisis sparked by the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 132,000 people in the country and caused at least 16,000 deaths.

Federculture, a cultural advocacy group, launched a petition after art critic Pierluigi Battista published a public appeal in the Italian daily newspaper the Corriere della Sera on March 26. Battista wrote that the establishment of a “national cultural salvation plan” to protect Italy’s museums, archaeological sites, theaters, orchestras, and bookstores would “demonstrate that culture and art are our pride.”

Battista claimed that the government must introduce “substantial and generous” measures, including tax exemptions and federal relief emergency funding, and urged individual donors to step up. Together, Italians and the government can prevent the “asphyxiation” of Italy’s cultural heritage, he wrote.

The petition has since been submitted to Dario Franceschini, the Italian minister of cultural heritage and activities and tourism, and has received support from a number of arts groups, including the Confindustria Cultura Italia. The organization’s president, Innocenzo Cipolletta, called Battista’s proposal essential.

“We can’t think of just surviving the storm. We must also be able to operate later,” he said. Cipolletta previously demanded that the government temporarily suspend the creative industries’ payments of social security contributions and taxes and provide new loans. Protecting culture, he argued, does not only help the economy; it preserves Italians’ quality of life.