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Sunday, August 5, 2012

FLORENCE’S CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM SHUTS



Florence’s contemporary art museum shuts
Asset rich, policy poor: Florence’s culture should be for the Florentines, not just tourists

By Edek Osser, Tina Lepri and Ermanno Rivetti. Museums, Issue 237, July-August 2012
Published online: 03 July 2012

The city of Florence has long been accused of lacking vision when it comes to contemporary art, a charge that is hard to refute. Ex3 Toscana Contemporanea, the only contemporary art museum in the city to receive public funding, was forced to close in mid-June because it had run out of money. It opened in 2009 and had so far mounted 16 exhibitions. However, its public subsidy of €85,000 in 2011, for example, was not enough to cover its annual operating cost of around €200,000. The director of the museum, Andrea Tanini, pointed out in an open letter that Florence’s €2m cultural budget for 2012 is destined almost entirely for established institutions that are already financially stable.

This blow to the city’s already struggling contemporary art scene is a symptom of the city’s cultural strengths and weaknesses. Florence is by no means a large city but it has 50 cultural institutions, including 25 state museums, seven municipal museums, private collections, churches and oratories, palaces, historical gardens and piazzas. However, the overall consensus is that, despite this treasure trove, Florence lacks any sort of cohesive cultural strategy. This has, in turn, created a situation in which the tourism industry has dominated and alienated the city’s inhabitants from their own cultural heritage. Carlo Sisi, a celebrated art historian and the president of the Marino Marini museum, says: “Florentines look at the Bargello museum, the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi as tourist hotspots rather than as places that belong to their world. This is why we need to rethink our cultural strategy to include them in it.”

Who funds what

It is no exaggeration to say that Florence is dominated by cultural activities, with its 35 universities and academies (more than any single American city), as well as its museums and institutions. The city’s cultural infrastructure is split between four bodies; the Polo Museale, the umbrella organisation that oversees the city’s museums and institutions; the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, the foundation of the Banca CR Firenze, which funds cultural projects, restoration works and exhibition programmes; the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, the public-private foundation that organises historic and contemporary art exhibitions (but does not have its own collection); and the city’s administration, housed in the Palazzo Vecchio, of which the mayor, Matteo Renzi, struck a deal with Italy’s ministry of culture in 2010 to give the city more financial control over its cultural heritage. The most important of the four is probably the Polo Museale, which is run by the superintendent Cristina Acidini. “Our organisation is unique because of the sheer number of museums,” Acidini says. “In 2011 we had around 1.8 million visitors to the Uffizi, around 1.3 million to the Accademia and significantly less to all the other museums. A few are earning huge amounts while others hardly anything.” The Uffizi, of course, remains the most popular (and oversubscribed) destination in town, and the advent of the Nuovi Uffizi project will only exacerbate this trend—ten rooms for foreign artists were opened in December and a further ten dedicated to 16th-century Tuscan artists opened on 19 June. Another 13 rooms are being restored and are due to be completed by February 2013.


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