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Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli.
Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli.

Italy’s Right-Wing Culture Minister Looks to Home for Top Museum Positions

Four years after his predecessor ushered in a wave of non-Italians to head Italy’s top museums, culture minister Alberto Bonisoli is looking to appoint more Italians to managerial and leadership positions in the country’s institutions. Bonisoli belongs to the country’s Five Star Movement, which recently joined a political coalition with the right-wing, anti-immigrant League Party. While Bonisoli said that he has “no problem” hiring non-Italians for the country’s cultural leadership positions, he also told The Times, “I don’t feel the need to go abroad.”

Some fear that Bonisoli—whose party has rallied under the “Italians First” slogan—and his desire to look inward for cultural hires is a threat to the global inclusivity championed by previous centrist culture minister Dario Franceschini, who in 2015 brought in a spate of non-Italians to fill top positions in the country’s museums.

Franceschini’s initiative was meant to revivify Italian institutions that have floundered after slashes in public funding and to rescue the country’s museum system from a stuffy public image. His international call for the heads of twenty of Italy’s major museums—including a call for applicants that was advertised in The Economist—led to the directorship appointments of Germans Eike Schmidt, Cecilie Hollberg, and Gabriel Zuchtriegel at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Accademia Gallery, and the Paestum Archaeology Park, respectively; Austrian Peter Aufreiter at the National Gallery of Marche; British Canadian James Bradburne at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan; and French Sylvain Bellenger at the Capodimonte in Naples; among others. They will find out whether their contracts will be renewed later this year. 

“I think they thought they wouldn’t find sufficient talent for the job in Italy,” Bonisoli said, referring to the international call for directors, adding that, now, “I think you will find it.”