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Who are Italy's new museum directors?

Schmidt to swap Uffizi for Capodimonte in Naples.

The Italian culture ministry on Friday announced the appointments of new directors of some of Italy's most important museums, following a public selection process.

Over the past weeks a ministry-appointed committee interviewed dozens of candidates in the running for directorships of Italy's top museums.

The panel was tasked with whittling the 10 candidates for each job down to a shortlist of three, with culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano picking the winner.

One of the most significant appointments is that of outgoing Uffizi director Eike Schmidt who will take the place of French director Sylvain Bellenger at the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples.

Schmidt, a German art historian who recently obtained Italian citizenship, leaves his tenure in Florence with record numbers behind him: the Uffizi is on track to exceed five million visitors this year - beating the pre-pandemic record of 4.3 million visitors in 2019 - and generating almost €60 million, up from €35 million last year.

Schmidt has recently been at the centre of political discussion over the possibility that he might run for mayor of Florence in the 2024 local elections, with the support of the right-wing parties in government.

The outgoing Uffizi director has refused to confirm or deny the move, stating that he would clarify his intentions in January. It is not known whether his appointment to Capodimonte will affect his plans.

Schmidt will be replaced at the Uffizi by Simone Verde, an art historian who is currently director of the Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta in Parma.

Renata Cristina Mazzantini will succeed Cristiana Collu as director of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art (GNAM) in Rome.

Mazzantini is the curator of the Quirinale Contemporaneo project and consultant to the general secretariat of the presidency of the republic for artistic and architectural profiles.

Angelo Crespi, currently president of the Museo Arte Gallarate (MAGA), a museum of modern and contemporary art in Gallarate in Italy's northern Lombardia region, will assume the role of director at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.

Crespi takes over from British-Canadian James Bradburne who recently concluded an eight-year term as director.

There were also six appointments as directors to "second-tier" Italian museums: Federica Zalabra at the Museo Nazionale d’AbruzzoCostantino D’Orazio at the Galleria Nazionale dell’UmbriaFabrizio Sudano at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Reggio Calabria; Thomas Clement Salomon at the Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica; Stella Falzone at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto; and Alessandra Necci at the Gallerie Estensi in Modena.

When the tender for new directors was published a few months ago there was controversy among some members of Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government who stated their preference for Italian directors over foreigners.

In 2015, Sangiuliano's left-wing predecessor Dario Franceschini introduced radical reforms of how Italy managed its museum sector introducing a transparent public selection process to hire the best qualified directors or "super managers" from either Italy or abroad.

Despite some obstacles along the way, the reforms led to Rome giving seven out of 20 top museum jobs to non-Italians, including Schmidt at the Uffizi, Bradburne at the Pinacoteca di Brera, Bellenger at Capodimonte, and German Cecilie Hollberg at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence (her term is up next year).

Under new rules drawn up by the five-person committee appointed by Sangiuliano, the candidates applying for museum directorships in Italy this time round reportedly had to display proficiency in the Italian language.

Cover image: Tourist in front of Botticell's Birth of Venus at the Uffizi. Photo: Hunter Bliss Images / Shutterstock.com.

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