Apollo Magazine

Italy tucks away its assets to avoid Iranian blushes

Italian PM Matteo Renzi likes to boast about his country's cultural heritage – until the Iranian president visits, that is...


Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

‘Italy is the Country where the culture of conservation of cultural assets was born,’ Italian PM Matteo Renzi told the 70th General Assembly of the UN last September. ‘[We are] Proud of our roots, of our Renaissance, we have the highest concentration in the world of UNESCO cultural heritage sites. This is why together with Country partners and friends, we candidate ourselves to be the guardians of culture in the world […] Because this is who we are, this is our identity.’

Profound words, and memorable to boot. What a shame, then, that Renzi appears to have forgotten all about them. When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Rome this week, some bright spark decided to stage a press conference between the two leaders in the Capitoline Museums. However, wary of offending the West’s new best friend (who, Rakewell might add, signed some €17 billion worth of trade deals during his stay in Italy), museum authorities were ordered to cover the numerous nude statues that line its galleries. White boxes were placed over the sculptures, covering them from head to toe.

As you can see in this video, the end result was rather more Donald Judd than Donatello – fine if you’re into minimalism, but hardly a ringing endorsement of the PM’s grand claims at the UN. So where did this rather censorious order come from? According to a spokesman for the City of Rome, it was none other than the office of one Matteo Renzi! 

Oh dear. It seems that when it comes to certain assets, the PM and his aspiring ‘guardians of culture’ are anything but ‘proud’. 

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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