Italian minister of culture promises to tighten up on mega-ads
The Art Newspaper, by The Art Newspaper team, November 2010 issue
Venice. Last month's petition against the huge advertisements on the Doge's Palace and elsewhere in Venice, launched by the British charity, the Venice in Peril Fund, and signed by the architect Norman Foster and leading international museum directors, was reported right around the world. On 4 October 2010, the Italian Minister of Culture, Sandro Bondi, issued a statement saying that, while the advertisements were necessary to make up for the shortage of public money for the conservation of historic buildings, the local superintendent [state official in charge of the heritage] was responsible for "interpreting local sensibilities". He went on to say that because "of the importance of the matter and of appeals coming also from abroad" he had asked his secretary general [Roberto Cecchi], "to draw up more consistent and appropriate criteria so that the advertisements on historic buildings will be more visually acceptable and will stay up for less time".
By contrast, in the local papers the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, criticised Venice in Peril and the signatories to the petition as stupid, not understanding the needs of Venice and treating the Venetians as though they were "savages with rings in their noses". He told Mail Online: "If people want to see the building [Bridge of Sighs] they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book."
The chairman of Venice in Peril, Anna Somers Cocks, responded in the Gazzettino newspaper that the petitioners were well aware of the financial situation, which depends on central government, not the town council, and that the mayor might think of channelling international opinion into supporting his case with the Italian Treasury. On 14 October the mayor called a press conference of foreign correspondents in Rome to answer questions about the ads, and said that he needed E107 million a year to maintain the buildings of Venice, that special government funding for the city had been cut from E615 million in 2000-2003 to zero, and that the ads were therefore indispensable. He also argued that with only six of them, Venice was restrained in their use, while there were 37 in Florence and 261 in Milan.
Cardinal Angelo Scola, the powerful Patriarch of Venice, implicitly supported the petition the following day when he told the Association of Private Committees for Venice, to which Venice in Peril belongs, that, "Venice clearly cannot be left in the hands only of its citizens, but belongs to all mankind", and that the Private Committees should not just restore buildings and works of art, "but also had an important educational role".