Venice, the conflict between publicity and cultural heritage shows signs of attenuation

25/05/2011

Venice, the conflict between publicity and cultural heritage shows signs of attenuation


Scavolini, a well know kitchen brand, has reacted to the constructive criticisms of residents and changed everything...

Following constructive criticism of advertisements on hoardings in Piazza San Marco, broadcast on Facebook by hundreds of Venice residents, the company redesigned their billboards.This is the result of an initiative launched jointly by two local citizen action groups, 40xVenezia and Venessia.com, known for their fresh approach to some of the longstanding ills affecting Venetians: on the one hand they rely heavily on the effectiveness of social networks and on the other they have a pragmatic approach to protests, involving accurate assessment of key problems affecting the city and trying to propose solutions together with their complaints.

There has been a twist in the traditionally conflicting dynamic in Italy between protecting the cultural heritage of historic cities and generating sponsorship revenues to pay for restoration (via scaffolding billboards) that often drowns the same heritage that is supposed to be being safeguarded - for months and years. 

In the eye of the storm lies the jewel in the crown of the world's most-loved city: St Mark's Square where the Doge's Palace and Bridge of Sighs have not seen the light of day for ages, having been tucked behind scaffolding during a lengthy restoration, covered by incongruous advertising signage.

With intensifying pressure on public coffers and the high visibility of monuments in touristic towns, the opportunity to raise money to pay for restoration by offering advertisers unparalleled exposure has been exploited for many years, but in Venice it seems that there has been no consideration of the impact this has on the identity of place, in a historical and cultural context, and - not least - the impact this has on experience of tourists when they visit Venice and are denied a view that they may have waited all their lives to experience.

But now, and for the first time, it appears that a new way forward is possible: the scaffolding space offered by the Venice Municipality covering the Doge's Palace and Bridge of Sighs has recently been "adopted" by Scavolini, a kitchens supplier. Finding the company announcement on Facebook, numerous Venetians filled the space for comments and feedback with accusations against the company for not respecting Venice. The company responded courteously, and expressed a willingness to consult with representatives from 40xVenezia and  Venessia.com, spokespersons for a broad and numerous array of residents. The original panels were substituted with a more respectful display, eventhough the company was nearing the end of its contract.

 "The outcome with Scavolini is extraordinary for these times," declared 40xVenezia and Venessia.com.  "We hope that it will serve as a precedent for future advertisers and teach the city's administration that it is possible to unite the commercial objectives of sponsors and the need for substantial financial support for restoration work with residents' and visitors' desires to safeguard the cultural integrity and priceless views of Venice.

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The Bridge of Sighs prior to the initiative

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