Foreign museum directors in Italy

One topic always arises when I am in the company of members of the Soprintenza for Beni Culturali: should foreigners be running Italy’s national cultural sites?

In 2015 Minister Dario Francescini appointed a dozen or so foreign experts to oversee Italy’s most prestigious museums and sites, hoping to bring fresh energy to these places. Of course it has long since been a fashion in the USA and UK to appoint foreigners to manage cultural assets - there’s a German, after all, heading up the British Museum. But Italy, so my state companions tacitly suggest, is different. How can a foreigner get it? Or worse, isn’t it a kind of discrete colonialism.

What is not stated is possibly what goes unsaid. Only Italians can understand Italy; foreigners are welcome as visitors; …..and wait for the new government to roll back this 2015 reform.

Galleria Borghese (www.galleriaborghese.it)

Well, imagine my surprise when at the barber’s - where I really get to grips with Italian politics and soccer - to discover a profile of one new director in The March edition of GQ. Alongside film stars, business chiefs and male models is Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the new director at Paestum. Why? In two years he has raised visitors numbers to this great Grecian archaeological park by nearly 50 per cent, from about 300,000 to 441,000.

Can GQ be misguided? Skim its pages and its easy to see the magazine’s laddish mission: it speaks to Italian men who want Italy to be successful first and foremost. If Juve and Roma can have foreign players in their soccer teams, why can’t the Ministry of Culture, the men’s magazine seems to be saying?

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