Is Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt Planning to Run for Mayor of Florence?

If so, his move to become an Italian citizen certainly seems timely.

Eike Schmidt, director of Gallerie degli Uffizi on January 24, 2023 in Florence, Italy. Photo: Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images.

Eike Schmidt, the German-born director of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, will officially become an Italian citizen tomorrow, he told the Corriere Fiorentino. The news arrived amid rumors, which Schmidt has repeatedly refused to deny, that he plans to run for mayor of Florence when his current term at the Uffizi comes to an end. Alternatively, he may wish to lead another museum in Italy, and is one of 10 candidates being considered for the Capodimonte in Naples.

When Schmidt joined the Uffizi in 2015, he was the first non-Italian to get the job but one of several foreign directors installed by then center-left culture minister Dario Franceschini. These included fellow German Cecilie Hollberg at Florence’s Accademia, the British-Canadian James Bradburne at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, and the French art historian Sylvain Bellenger at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.

As his first term drew to a close in 2019, it was reported that Schmidt would leave to go to the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna. He canceled the move last minute in October, just one month before he was due to start the new role. According to Die Presse, Schmidt’s reason was that Florence had “grown very close to his heart,” but the paper also speculated that he may have decided to leave after Franceschini was replaced by Alberto Bonisoli. The new minister was less favorable to foreign directors and did not renew some of their contracts. By September 2019, however, Franceschini was back in office and ready to reappoint Schmidt.

Four years on, the political climate in Italy has shifted towards the far right with the election of prime minister Giorgia Meloni last fall. The ruling Fratelli d’Italia party has sought to install right-wing sympathizers into leadership positions across the cultural sphere, including nominating Pietrangelo Buttafuoco as the next president of the Venice Biennale. The mood has also become, once again, increasingly hostile towards foreign museum directors.

“We arrived, they leave,” said Italy’s undersecretary for culture Vittorio Sgarbi. “Why do I have to put a foreign director at the Uffizi? Have you ever seen a foreigner go to the Louvre?”

Ten candidates for each of Italy’s top museum jobs were shortlisted by the Evaluation Commission on October 25, and interviews are currently taking place. Culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano is expected to announce the final appointments next month, revealing whether or not Schmidt will be transfered from the Uffizi to the Capodimonte in Naples.

As for possible plans to run for mayor, Schmidt has repeatedly stated: “I neither confirm nor deny.” If it happens, he would run as a center-right candidate to replace the left-wing incumbent Dario Nardella. The two men have publicly taken several swipes at each other in recent years. In September, Schmidt told the Corriere Fiorentino that Florence had become a worse and dirtier city since he’d lived there. The mayoral term lasts five years and Nardella began his second term in May 2019, meaning there will likely be an election next year.

Whether Schmidt plans to run for mayor or join another Italian museum, it will only help to hold an Italian passport. Is that his main motivation for naturalizing?

According to Schmidt, whose wife is Italian, his application for citizenship has been in the works for four years, ever since he began his second term at the Uffizi. “Covid made it much longer than expected, because documents were needed from all the states in which I have lived in the past,” he told the Corriere Fiorentino. A spokesperson for the Uffizi confirmed in an email that Schmidt “becomes Italian because he loves Italy.” Whatever the case, the timing is undeniably auspicious.

 

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