Vindicated of Excessive Gym Use Charges, the Director of Rome’s Galleria Borghese Has Gotten Her Job Back

A press statement described Anna Coliva's six-month suspension as "an Erdogan-style punishment."

Anna Coliva, Director of Galleria Borghese. Courtesy Galleria Borghese.

Anna Coliva, the director of Rome’s Galleria Borghese who had been suspended by the Italian Ministry of Culture in April for “absenteeism” over unauthorized gym visits, has been officially reinstated.

The ministry began an investigation into the director in 2014, after receiving an anonymous tip alleging that she frequently left the office to exercise. According to the Art Newspaperthe ministry responded by imposing a six-month suspension without pay after finding that she was indeed absent for 41 hours over a 12 day period.

A press release released by Coliva’s representative said the ministry had imposed the suspension “without verification or waiting for a ruling” and labelled it “an Erdogan-style punishment.”

Coliva’s suspension did not last long. In May, an employment court ruled that there were no grounds for the charges after Coliva successfully argued that she frequently left the office on museum business and that her overtime hours made up for her daytime gym visits.

Galleria Borghese. Image courtesy Francisco Anzola on Flickr.

Galleria Borghese. Image courtesy Francisco Anzola on Flickr.

Even though the court ruled in her favor, the lifting of her suspension was delayed when culture ministry officials were replaced following the election of a new Italian government in June. In November, she finally reached a settlement with the ministry, and was reinstated on the condition of waiving any claims to damages. However, she retained the right to press charges against the individual or individuals that anonymously initiated the investigation. (The Italian legal system allows settlements alongside court rulings).

The harsh penalty on Coliva imposed by the ministry provoked outrage from the art world. A petition calling for her immediate reinstatement gathered just under 2,000 signatures. It also highlighted her accomplishments, including a critically acclaimed Bernini show, the establishment of a Caravaggio research institute, and boosting the museum’s endowment by over €12 million over her 12 years at the museum.

Even though the settlement was reached last month, on November 12, Coliva decided to go public with news of her reinstatement now, after the Italian art publication Il Giornale dell’Arte published a story on the case in its December issue.

The Italian Ministry of Culture did not respond to artnet News’s request for comment.

Read the entire statement about Coliva’s reinstatment, below.

On November 12th, Anna Coliva was reinstated as Director of the Galleria Borghese in a formal settlement after the labor judge established last May that there were no grounds for the charges that had been made. MiBAC withdrew the suspension and the Director waived any claim for damages while reserving the right to initiate legal proceedings to clarify the individual liabilities that gave rise to this matter.

The case began with an anonymous complaint, which was not dismissed as it should have been, but was taken up by the offices of MiBAC. As a result, Coliva was accused of “absenteeism” and given the penalty of six months’ suspension without pay as established by the Ministry, without MiBAC performing any verification or waiting for a ruling, as should have been required—an “Erdogan-style” punishment and purge.

The indignation of the art world and international museums was enormous. At the beginning of May, more than 2,000 signatures were collected in less than a week on the platform in support of the art historian, who for the past 12 years, has directed the Galleria Borghese, transforming it into one of the most important international museums recognized for its protection, conservation, enhancement, research and fundraising activities. One of the most successful artistic, cultural and economic results was the Caravaggio Research Institute, one of the most important research projects ever undertaken by an Italian museum and which has just concluded a major exhibition dedicated to Bernini, which led to new scientific discoveries and was recognized by critics and the press as the most beautiful exhibition of the year, with record revenues for the museum. The museum’s pioneering fundraising activities have raised over 12 million euros in the last 12 years.

However, Anna Coliva’s suspension was brief. In fact, the ruling of November 12th ends—after the appropriate verification – the dialogue and the negotiations reopened in June, when the new Government, the new Minister and MiBAC new executives took office.

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