March 1, 2018

Italy, general election 2018. What are the parties saying about the arts?

Hours away from the vote we analyzed Italian main political parties’ cultural programs. PD and M5S walk on the similar paths. Lega Nord is proposing to set up the Northern Italy largest museum of modern art in Como. FI doesn’t mention culture.

Next Sunday Italians are going to vote in the general election and probably many of them are still undecided. The election campaign has been harsh to the point that one may have the feeling nobody really deserves to win. So it’s impossible to make predictions and likely the electoral programs will be disregarded for noone will probably reach the numbers needed to govern without allies. However, programs are one of the few objective evaluation parameters available, and since we deal with culture it is on this issue that we would like to give a competent analysis. Furthermore, we believe that evaluating this aspect is important as it won’t be possible to make progress in any of the sectors considered to be primary if a government does not invest on knowledge, the only true and healthy development power of any society.

Let’s start from the Democratic Party (PD). The current Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini is a distinguished member of this party. There’s no doubt that Mr Franceschini is the most dynamic culture minister that Italy had since many years. He is responsible for important reforms, such as the one that gave budget autonomy to the 30 main national museums; the so called Art Bonus; the exacerbation of penalties against counterfeiters; the introduction of fairer rules regarding the exportation of works of art. Moreover, Franceschini has organized and presided over the first G7 on culture, as well as being member of the government that has reformed the third sector, including new rules many Italian private cultural institutions will certainly benefit from in the near future. Given the results obtained so far, the proposed electoral program could have been more defined. There are general guidelines of common sense, but the most relevant proposals are to extend the Art Bonus to micro donations and to establish a fund for securing cultural assets in seismic areas.

The program of the Five Star Movement (M5S) is well structured, easy to navigate and divided into sub-programs. There is a specific one dedicated to cultural heritage, introduced by a rather convincing text that explains why it is important to invest in culture. The first goal of the M5S is to avoid short-term policies. In this regard they claim: ‘It is necessary to star considering Culture as a constitutive element and strategic sector for the growth of the Country’. With regard to museums and monuments, the focus is on local resources and, similarly to PD, they want to extend the Art Bonus to micro donations. They would also reform the public funding system of cultural institutions in order to to make the distribution of resources more transparent and efficient. They intend to ‘adjust’ the reform of the Ministry ordered by Franceschini to improve the relationship between Soprintendenze, museums and the General Directions; but the M5S wants to revise the new rules on exports in a restrictive and anti-commercial sense. They are defending small museums, which have been penalized by the creation of the new 30 main national museums. It is also suggested to map the cultural ‘material and immaterial’ assets currently abandoned, which could make possible the recovery of these assets. Finally, the M5S has also proposed to set up a special fund for cataloging and digitizing the artistic heritage and, in general, intends to restore power to the Sopraintendenze to ensure a better protection of the heritage. They reaffirm the need for for the legal recognition of professions working in culture.

The section of the Lega Nord’s program dedicated to culture is meaningfully entitled ‘Cultural Heritage and Italian Identity’. The Lega considers the cultural heritage mainly in relation to tourism and claims that the central Government should have only subsidiary function, leaving local authorities to rule. According to the Lega’s program the cultural heritage is a strategic sector, ‘which more than any other can guarantee us a leadership towards the rest of the world’. By reversing the tendency to de-locate, Italy could once again become ‘the capital of the world in this sector’. In fact, the program declares that ‘Italy is recognized and entrusted – it is not specified by whom – the task of being the country that tells others how to produce beauty, how to live with taste. Italy and its thousand cultures must be the Silicon Valley of cultural heritage, the Bangalore of the landscape, the Shanghai of bien vivre ‘. The first thing to do in order to achieve this goals would be to transform the MiBACT into the Ministry of the Treasury of Cultural Heritage; but nothing is said nor why and for what purpose. Then new Government should hire professionals in marketing and development to ‘promote the immense artistic heritage of this country’. Furthermore, a feasibility study on ‘museum and archaeology federalism’ would be needed; But then the program indicates that the main problem of Italian museums is that of being fragmented and lacking coordination. In Como, at ‘Palazzo Terragni’, it should be built ‘the largest museum of modern art, architecture and design in Northern Italy’, perhaps abolishing the rules that currently prevent municipalities from spending in culture and hire employees. The only sharpness is the proposal to de-tax the works of art.

The official program of Forza Italia does not mention culture, or the Italian cultural heritage.