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Who’s in the running to lead Italy’s top museums? A look at the shortlists

14 July 2015

Update: the new directors for 20 Italian museums were announced on 18 August.

The shortlists for the directors of Italy’s 20 new so-called ‘musei autonomi’ – that is to say those museums that will be granted financial autonomy – were officially announced on 1 July, so now what has been going on behind the scenes is finally coming to light. For example, those candidates who have wisely chosen to apply for one, or at most two museums are rather sceptical about those who, with a more aggressive approach, are running for many museums at the same time. The Italian medievalist Martina Bagnoli has been selected for 12 museums (with top rates). But how could a specialist have such a wide range of knowledge?

Furthermore, it doesn’t seem completely fair that the final choice for each museum will be made directly by the Minister of Culture himself, Dario Franceschini, helped only of the ‘Direttore Generale’ of museums at the culture ministry, Ugo Soragni – an official who is also appointed directly by the Minister of Culture. Will they be able to choose properly, freely, and according to the real needs of the institutions? The international art community does hope so.

They have many good options at their disposal. Stefano Carboni, who has been shortlisted for Galleria Borghese, Uffizi, Pinacoteca di Brera, Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, and surprisingly also for the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome, was Curator and Administrator in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Visiting Professor at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. He is a specialist in Arabic and Islamic Art, currently director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, and has curated a large number of successful exhibitions, such as the epic ‘Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797’ at the Met in 2006.

About 20 of those selected are foreigners. Among them, there is the art historian (and former Apollo editor) David Ekserdjian – who is running for the Uffizi, Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice and Galleria Borghese – but also lesser known figures such as Katherine Getchell, who has been a deputy director at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, since 2003. She is in the same shortlists as Ekserdjian, thus like him she could become the first foreign director of an Italian national museum. But they will have to face highly qualified and well introduced local competitors such as Paola Marini, director of Verona’s museums and board member of ICOM Italy, or Antonio Natali, the Uffizi’s current director. Will the minister and his assistant be bold in making such critical decisions?

More on this story:

Are Italy’s museum reforms enough to stop the rot?

The Magnificent 20: these Italian museums have been granted financial autonomy

More on the problems facing Italian museums:

Italian Lessons: museums are showing the strain

Letter: Tim Parks on the recent thefts in Italy

Italy’s digital ruins

Who should lead the UK’s top museums?

Changing of the guard: who will lead the UK’s museums? (Giles Waterfield)

Tate Britain: A Poisoned Chalice? (Martin Oldham)

Lead image: used under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 3.0)