Will populist politics undo a renaissance at Italy's Uffizi? - GulfToday

Will populist politics undo a renaissance at Italy's Uffizi?

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Visitors admire Italian Renaissance painter Piero Della Francesca's portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino.

To protect the masterpieces at the Uffizi Galleries, the Florence museum's director climbed a ladder and hurled an employee's bicycle down at a sheet of glass specially made to keep prized pieces such as Botticelli's "Spring" and "Birth of Venus" safe from vandals.

The nearly invisible barriers had an added bonus, the diligent director, Eike Schmidt, noted with delight after the material he had tested covered actual paintings: with guard ropes no longer needed, visitors could get closer to the art.

"Sometimes they touch the glass with their noses," Schmidt, a German art historian who in 2015 became the first foreigner to lead the Uffizi, said as museum-goers strolled behind him.

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German director of the Uffizi Gallery museum is interviewed.

"We see that every morning, because every morning it's being cleaned (and) we have several nose marks on the glass."

Under the dynamic direction of Schmidt, the Uffizi has seen renewal, rave reviews and soaring revenues. Rooms were reworked to better show off important pieces by Renaissance artists Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

A video of Schmidt inviting Ed Sheeran, The Cure, Eddie Vedder and their fans to drop by during a rock music festival put a different light on the collection, part of a push to broaden its audience.

But is the Uffizi's own renaissance - and similarly fruitful periods at other Italian museums - coming to an end?

The populist government that took office in Italy last year and rising nationalist sentiment are roiling the country's state-run museums. Reforms enacted in 2014 by a liberal-leaning government granted many of the venerable but sometimes fusty institutions considerable autonomy.

Associated Press