Italy looks abroad to rescue museums

SHAFAQNA – Foreign managers are to be recruited to run Italy’s leading collections of art and antiques to improve ticket sales.In January, the Italian culture minister will place adverts in newspapers around the world seeking new talent to run its 18 most important museums — the first time the jobs have been offered abroad.

The Uffizi gallery in Florence, the Borghese gallery in Rome, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, and Naples’ archaeological museum will no longer be run by bureaucrats, but by experts charged with beefing up revenue and opening restaurants and book shops.

Dario Franceschini, the culture minister, said that Italians would be able to apply, but “we hope to attract talent from the biggest museums in the world”.

“If I was an expert I would see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I expect a large number of applicants from abroad,” he said.

Italy has more than 500 state-run museums and archaeological sites, but they made €126 million (£99 million) from ticket sales in 2013, compared with €58 million earned alone in 2012 by the Louvre in Paris.

An Italian government source said a “revolution” was needed, adding that “some of the people paid to look after Italian culture see groups of tourists as an annoyance”.

The new managers, who will receive new powers to cut through Italy’s notorious red tape, will be asked to turn around sites like the crumbling Bourbon palace at Caserta near Naples, where visitor numbers are falling and children break in to take dips in the monumental pool in the English-style landscape gardens.

Despite a world-class collection of Roman antiquities, Naples’ underpublicised archaeological museum was visited by 300,000 people last year, compared with ten million for the Louvre in 2012.

The museum at Reggio Calabria, which has the Riace Bronzes — two Greek bronzes of naked warriors — attracted a mere 11,500 visitors last year.

More than half the 38 million visitors to Italian state museum and other sites last year were given a free ticket. The government has cut back on free ticketing this year and hopes that visitors will spend more money in shops and cafes it wants new managers to open at the museums.

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