While many Italians were on holiday last month, the country’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, announced the names of new directors to 20 of Italy’s most prestigious museums, posts that were awarded in an international competition opened by the government for the first time. This is part of a national effort to reform and modernize the museum system, patrimony of Italy’s cultural heritage, including a free museum day to State museums on the first Sunday of each month.
Ironically, Italy manages about 80% of the cultural heritage in Europe, but of the top 10 most visited museums in the world, not one is in Italy, and much of what is held in prominent collections is kept in deep storage. The Louvre and the British Museum, for example, draw several million visitors per year, but the Uffizi Gallery, one of the top tourist attractions in the Italy, attracts only 1.5 million visitors annually.
In an attempt to bring in a new dynamic and modernized approach, strategic leadership and more autonomous management over the stagnant and inefficient Italian systems, visitors should expect easier ticket purchasing, better cultural programs and outreach, and technological advancements. Think new and improved websites and didactic info, language translations, digital guides, more funding, clearer museum opening hours, and less complicated bureaucracy.
Perhaps the new Director of the Uffizi Gallery, 47-year-old German art historian, Eike Schmidt, will streamline your next visit to Florence’s top tourist destination by reducing crowds and waiting times. Schmidt will be the Uffizi’s first non-Italian director since the gallery opened to the public in 1769. He comes from a position as curator and director of the Sculpture, Applied and Textile Arts Department at the Minneapolis Institute of Art since 2009, and has previously held positions at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and Sotheby’s in London. He studied Medieval and Modern Art History in Heidelberg, and lived and studied in Florence for 7 years.
Breaking with tradition, the positive news is that half of the 20 appointees are women, 7 are foreigners (non-Italian EU nationals), 4 of the 13 Italians are returning to Italy after gaining experience abroad, and the average age of the new directors is a fresh 50.
Also in Florence, at the Accademia Gallery, another German, Cicilie Hollberg has been selected, British-Canadian James Bradburne, former Director of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence will take over the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, and the Bargello Museum will be lead by Paola D’Agostino.
See the official MiBACT list of the selected ‘super directors.’