Italy Finally Acts to Ramp Up Museums’ Profitability

Radical changes are afoot.

Italy’s efforts to make its museums more profitable and increase private funding for the maintenance of its archaeological sites is about to enter a new, institutionalized phase.

According to the Guardian, the country’s minister of culture, Dario Franceschini, is about to present a new government-sponsored initiative aimed at encouraging Italian museums to catch up with their international counterparts in terms of revenue.

The new decree features the creation of more restaurants, gift shops, and other visitor services inside the institutions. As of today, only 190 out of 450 Italian museums are equipped with such facilities.

Another important aspect of the decree is the creation of 18 fund-raising offices attached to the country’s most important artistic sites. These offices will seek private sector bids from both Italian and international companies, with the ambitious goal of raising €2 billion per year by 2017.

Despite Italy’s unique artistic and historical heritage, its museums and archaeological sites only made €380 million last year, La Repubblica reports. As the Italian press pointed out, this would mean that the restaurant of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York generates more revenue than all the museums of Italy combined.

“We’ve inherited an intolerable situation,” Franceschini told La Repubblica. “There is no activity of the state that is even capable of running a bookshop.”

Privately-Sponsored Restorations

This imminent decree culminates a year marked by numerous privately-sponsored restorations of key historical monuments (see “Luxury Brands Fund Restoration of Italy’s Monuments”).

In Rome, the luxury group Tod’s pledged €25 million towards the refurbishment of the Colosseum, Fendi sponsored the €3.2 million restoration of the Trevi Fountain, and Bulgari donated €1.6 million to renovate the Spanish Steps. In Florence, the luxury giant Salvatore Ferragamo gave €600,000 to renovate eight rooms at the Uffizi Gallery (see “Uffizi to Reopen Eight Renaissance Rooms After Ferragamo Gift“), while a Tuscany-based philanthropist offered  €200,000 to restore a deteriorated Piero della Francesca fresco (see “Philanthropist Saves Priceless Piero della Francesca Masterpiece“).

Only last week, it was announced that next year, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice will reopen eleven rooms, doubling the museum’s exhibition space from 5,000 to 10,000 sq. meters. The ambitious refurbishment comes courtesy of Samsung Italy and the US non-profit organization Venetian Heritage, which have pledged €600,000 towards the project (see “Venice’s Accademia Doubles in Size for the Biennale”).

But not everyone has welcomed the trend.

According to the New York Times, Florence’s mayor was heavily criticized after it was revealed that the local authorities had rented a 14th-century chapel for $27,000 to the financial services corporation Morgan Stanley to host a dinner. And last summer, a group of preservationists lambasted Rome’s mayor for allowing the Rolling Stones to rent Circus Maximus to hold a concert.

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