Italy passes the Art Bonus law as incentive to help fund restoration of public cultural patrimony

Rome's Colosseum under scaffolding

Rome’s Colosseum under scaffolding

You wouldn’t think Italy would need incentives to help fund the maintenance and restoration of its museums, priceless artifacts, and numerous Unesco sites, but tourism and limited governmental funds alone cannot pay for these endless tasks, so recently the Italian Parliament has passed some new laws to alleviate the situation, especially under such economic times of crisis in the Bel Paese.

Art BonusThe initiative aims to promote and “revolutionize” arts patronage and provide financial support for this cultural and domain and to relaunch the cultural sector. The new law, called Art Bonus, hopes to encourage patrons (both individuals and businesses) to invest in the restoration of cultural entities by offering them a tax bonus equal to a deduction of 65% of their donation in favor of museums, archaeological sites, archives, libraries, theaters, and lyrical symphony foundations.

In an attempt to boost touristic entities, the law also allows a 30% tax credit to touristic structures when they invest in reconstruction, revamping, and modernization (such as digitization) of their entity.

In fact, several corporations have been funding renovations of public antiquities recently in Italy. In Rome, the scaffolding that has been in place around much of the Colosseum is finally coming down after several months of works — a major restoration financed by the Italian luxury group Tod’s with $34 million. At the same time, fashion brand Fendi is funding $4 million to restore the Trevi Fountain, while Bulgari is investing $2 million to preserve the area of the Spanish Steps. If you want a good photo op of these famous sites, you may want to delay your trip to Rome.

As long as these large corporations don’t take advantage of their presence over these monuments to advertise their companies (showing up in millions of photographs taken daily), and they are truly donating for philanthropic purposes, this could be a smart way to pay for these important restorations. But some historians and preservationists fear that corporations could exploit priceless historical public sites and cause damage to them, as in the case of a private corporate dinner held recently in Florence inside a 14th-century chapel, and another in the same gallery where Michelangelo’s David stands (where visitors aren’t even allowed to take photos). Controversy and politics cannot be avoided in situations like this.

Other donations, like the recent one by the fashion house of Salvatore Ferragamo, based in Florence, announced a donation of $817,000 to restore a wing of the Uffizi Gallery are plenty welcome. In acts such as these, see it as you wish, but wealthy individuals and small philanthropic groups together with the Italian government and cultural organizations cannot take care of the countries cultural patrimony by themselves.

Read a related in-depth article from The New York Times.

About SACI

SACI is a US non-profit College of Art and Design in Florence, Italy, for undergraduate and graduate students seeking accredited instruction in studio art, design, conservation, art history, and Italian language and culture. Founded in 1975, SACI offers the following programs: Academic Semester/Year Abroad, Late Spring & Summer Studies, Venice Summer Program, Post-Bac in Conservation, Post-Bac in Studio Art; MFA in Studio Art, MFA in Photography, MFA in Communication Design, Low-Residency MFA in Studio Art, MA in Art History.

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