After Beating Back a Populist Surge, Italy’s Leaders Will Again Allow Foreigners to Apply for Museum Directorships

Thirteen posts are now open to those wishing to apply from abroad.

Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini. Photo by Stefano Montesi-Corbis/ Getty Images.

The fight over who controls Italy’s precious cultural heritage has taken yet another turn.

On Wednesday, January 29, the Italian culture ministry announced it was looking to fill 13 directorial and upper managerial positions at national museums, and that the jobs would be open to international applicants.

The call is overseen by Dario Franceschini, who was reappointed as the country’s culture minister last fall. His plan reverses a controversial policy undertaken by his predecessor, Alberto Bonisoli, who preferred to take an “Italians first” approach.

On Twitter, Franceschini called the move “another step forward in the path of modernization” of Italian museums. “Autonomy and quality directors are a winning mix for museums and territories.”

Franceschini was reinstated as culture minister in September after having held the position from 2014 to 2018. He was ousted briefly through an election process in June 2018 that elevated Bonisoli, a member of the nationalist Five Star Movement, to the job.

While Bonisoli was in power, museums lost their independent boards of trustees and the government undertook additional oversight into their spending and loans. Among the spats that erupted in the wake of the changes was a months-long battle with France over the lending of artworks for the Louvre’s blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

Italy's form culture minister, Alberto Bonisoli. Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images.

Italy’s former culture minister, Alberto Bonisoli. Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images.

The German art historian Cecilie Hollberg, who was abruptly fired last summer from her position as head of the Galleria Dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy’s most visited museum and home to Michelangelo’s David, has now been invited to return on another four-year contract, according to a report in Monopol. In related changes, the Galleria Dell’Accademia will no longer be a subsidiary of the Uffizi, another controversial change set in motion by Bonisoli last summer.

The changes likely come as no surprise to those in the inner circles of Italian museums. In an interview with Artnet News after the Five Star Movement took over, Peter Assmann, the former director of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, said he expected Hollberg to eventually return to her post and the Galleria Dell’Accademia and Uffizi to be made independent once again.

The foreign-born Assmann, however, will not return to his post. (He is currently the director of the Austrian National Museum in Vienna.) His old job is one of the 13 now up for grabs.

Post in upper management are now open at the Galleria Borghese in Florence and the Museo Nazionale Romano in Rome.

Directorial roles are available at the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in Urbino; the Palazzo Reale in Naples; and the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, among other institutions.

Interested applications must apply by March 3.

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