Italy Picks Italians to Lead the Uffizi and Other Museums

Italy’s culture ministry announced new leaders at some of the country’s top museums, including the Uffizi in Florence — one of the world’s most visited art institutions and home to hundreds of masterpieces including paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio and Michelangelo.

The nationalist government said in a news release on Friday that the Uffizi’s new director would be Simone Verde, an art historian who currently leads the Pilotta complex of museums in Parma, in northern Italy.

Verde, 48, studied theoretical philosophy in Rome before securing a diploma in art history from the École du Louvre in Paris. He has also worked at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as the museum’s head of scientific research and publications.

Verde, who will begin a four-year term in January, will replace Eike Schmidt, who led the Uffizi for the past eight years. The culture ministry announced that Schmidt would be taking over another Italian museum: the Capodimonte Museum, in Naples, whose collection includes paintings by Caravaggio, Titian and Gentileschi.

Yet Schmidt, who recently suggested he might leave the museum world for politics, is keeping his options open. Since the appointment, he told Italian reporters that he would decide in January whether to run for Florence’s mayor, adding that he could not do that job while running a museum at the same time.

“How can you think of spending half the week in Naples and half in Florence?” Schmidt said, according to Corriere del Mezzogiorno, a local edition of the Milan daily Corriere della Sera: “It would be absurd.”

A spokesman for the Uffizi said Schmidt and Verde were unavailable for comment.

The culture ministry’s announcement, which included new leadership for eight other museums, could signal a change in outlook for Italy’s art world.

Eight years ago, a previous Italian government passed a reform that paved the way for foreigners to take the helm at some of the country’s major museums, including Schmidt, who was born in Germany, at the Uffizi; Sylvain Bellenger, a French art historian, at the Capodimonte Museum; and James Bradburne, a Canadian-born British cultural manager, at the Brera art museum in Milan.

All of the appointees announced on Friday are Italian. (Schmidt recently received Italian citizenship.)

Vittorio Sgarbi, the deputy culture minister, joked on Saturday that Stella Falzone, who will lead the National Archaeological Museum in Taranto, was the only “foreigner” among the new directors because she had previously worked at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. The news agency ANSA reported that Sgarbi described the decision of the previous minister, who had opted for more international candidates, as foreigner-loving “intoxication.”

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