Schmidt appointment at Uffizi Gallery part of cultural shift in Italy

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence has announced that it has appointed the German art historian Eike Schmidt as its new director.
Schmidt, who is currently working at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, will be the gallery’s first ever non-Italian director and will replace the outgoing Antonio Natali.
The news has been something of a big issue in Italy, making its way all the way to the country’s government, having been announced by Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini, who also announced new directors appointed to Italy’s top twenty museums through an international competition.
Of all the directors chosen, at least seven are from overseas, with the use of foreign professionals largely seen as a move aimed at revamping Italy’s museum system, which many have argued is outdated in the face of the challenges that come with modern tourism.
Schmidt, like the rest of the 20 newcomers, will be given greater control over budgets, management and fundraising.
Such a change of tact will arguably be seen as being particularly momentous given that traditional control over cultural institutions was overseen by the country’s Culture Ministry.

Plans for the future

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Schmidt insisted that his international experience from working in similar roles around the world would allow him to bring an “international perspective” to the Uffizi’s operations, which he hinted could prove vital in helping to secure extra funding.
He said: “I know how certain things work in certain countries, including the US. That will definitely be very useful for the Uffizi in Florence.
“The Uffizi already has energy. We have two million visitors per year and no shortage of exhibitions. It’s more about dealing with the masses, securing new sources of funding and designing programs for an international audience. The visitors to the Uffizi are very international. A large percentage come from a broad range of countries and they have different expectations than Florentines, who’ve known the Uffizi since going to school.”
Schmidt went on to highlight that the gallery is now at something of a crossroads when it comes to funding.
Private sponsors look set to continue playing an important role, as well as traditional government resources.
Crucially, Schmidt claims the gallery is strengthening budgetary autonomy, which means that funds from entrance fees will be completely pumped back into the Uffizi rather than spread around various different parties.
However, Schmidt warned that changes would take time to implement, hinting that Italy itself may have to examine its attitude to art and other cultural treasures.
“That process is part of a larger museum reform effort that affects Italy’s entire museum landscape and requires negotiations between the museums and the state,” he added.