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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 11:47 GMT
Italy rows over selling off arts
Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo is Italy's most famous artist
Plans by the Italian Goverment to privatise museums and art galleries have met been with stern opposition in parliament.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government has proposed handing the management of arts centres to private companies.

But Italy's political left-wing is hoping to prevent the proposed legislation when it comes before parliament as part of next year's finance bill.

Under-Secretary of State for Culture Vittorio Sgarbi has defended the scheme, saying it "affects only economic aspects of museums, and not the artistic dimension".

Protection

"Tickets, restaurants and libraries will be handled by the private sector, as in the Louvre, the New York Metropolitan Museum and the Vatican Galleries," he added.

He stressed that the public sector would retain responsibility for exhibitions and the protection of cultural assets.

Masaccio's Pisa Altarpiece   National Gallery 2000
Vittorio Sgarbi criticised the National Gallery's Masaccio's Pisa Altarpiece exhibition
But Giovanna Melandri, arts minister in the previous left-of-centre government, said a law already exists on transferring areas of the service sector to private enterprise and no extra measures were necessary.

He pointed out that of the 350 museums and art galleries in Italy, about 100 already had ticket sales, restaurants and libraries managed by private companies.

"We find the new project ambiguous and want it clarified," a spokesman for Mr Melandri said.

Argument

"In fact we don't want measures affecting culture to drown in the middle of the finance bill.

"If there has to be legislation on the subject, let's have a real text focusing on culture."

Earlier this year, Mr Sgarbi became embroiled in an argument with London's National Gallery over the transportation of pieces of Masaccio's Pisa Altarpiece to the UK.

He accused the gallery of failing to match the generosity shown by Italy in lending artworks.

The minister singled out the National Gallery's refusal to lend paintings to a show in San Severino Marche in Italy - a show which Mr Sgarbi had himself curated.

See also:

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03 Sep 01 | Arts
Art show to defy criticism
23 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Discovery hints at Renaissance romance
11 Dec 99 | Europe
Sistine Chapel restored
27 May 99 | Entertainment
The Last Supper shown
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