A Right-Wing Journalist Has Been Nominated to Lead the Venice Biennale. Here’s What We Know

Pietrangelo Buttafuoco is set to replace current president Roberto Cicutto, whose first term ends in March 2024.

Pietrangelo Buttafuoco is an Italian journalist, writer, television host and commentator. Photo by Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images.

Right-wing journalist Pietrangelo Buttafuoco has been nominated to be the next president of the Venice Biennale by Italy’s culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, according to multiple reports published today in Italian media. Rumors have been swirling for months that he would replace current president Roberto Cicutto when his term ends in March 2024. The nomination must be reviewed by both Italy’s Chamber and Senate, and each house’s Culture Commission will announce their opinion on November 14.

Since coming to power last fall, Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her party the Fratelli d’Italia have been installing right-leaning candidates into leadership positions in the culture sector. One notable example is the appointment of right-wing journalist Alessandro Giuli as director of Fondazione MAXXI, which manages Italy’s national museum for contemporary art and architecture. Buttafuoco, who has no previous managerial experience, publicly supported Meloni during her election campaign and has had close ties with Sangiuliano for several decades.

Cicutto was appointed as president in 2020 by the then-culture minister Dario Franceschini, of the center-left. His leadership has been widely recognized as a success and he has been credited with steering the foundation through the financial threats of the pandemic and overseeing the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022, which was reportedly the most attended of all time. If he is ousted next spring, he will have served only one out of a possible three terms.

“Another glass ceiling has been broken,” commented Raffaele Speranzon, deputy group leader of Fratelli d’Italia, according to La Stampa. “Often, the Biennale Foundation has been considered by the left as a fiefdom in which to place friends and acolytes. Buttafuoco, finally, affirms a change that the Meloni government wants to imprint in every cultural and social center of the nation: only characters chosen for their depth, competence, and authority.”

Rachele Scarpa, a local center-left politician, commented that Speranzon’s comments on the nomination “bring forth a chilling vision of how the right conceives the cultural institutions of our country.” She added: “What is most alarming is that he calls into question the work of an institution, such as La Biennale, whose sole aim must be to take care of its exhibitions and certainly not to make the Fratelli d’Italia happy.”

La Stampa also reported that Buttafuoco has written “Me Ne Frego,” meaning “I don’t care,” on his WhatsApp profile. The phrase is a popular motto among fascist groups in Italy. Born in Sicily, Buttafuoco was previously a member of the central committee of the Italian Social Movement – National Right and the national assembly of the National Alliance, both parties associated with neo-fascist ideologies.

Luca Zaia, president of the Veneto region, which includes Venice, released a statement thanking Sangiuliano for the nomination. “The presidency is an important role in guiding and supporting the Biennale, especially for the far-sighted role of promoting art and culture in areas that have not yet been explored,” he said, according to La Stampa.

 

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