Masterpieces from around Italy to Milan?

Loans planned to decorate Expo2015

Controversial art critic Vittorio Sgarbi – in his current role as cultural ambassador for Lombardy – plans to bring iconic artworks from around the country to the north for the duration of next year’s world exposition in Milan.

Arguing that visitors are unlikely to cross the world to visit the Expo, and then find time to seek out some of the country’s famous artworks currently on show in small towns around the peninsula, Sgarbi is working to convince museums to loan their best exhibits. The politician-cum-critic, no stranger to controversy, believes that only Milan, Rome, Florence and Turin will enjoy the boost in tourism from Expo2015, while famous works such as Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s The Gardner, exhibited in Cremona, or the Riace Bronzes, currently on show in Reggio Calabria, are examples of famous artworks which risk remaining unseen by the Expo visitors.

Sgarbi said this week that he is also hoping to pursuade Florence’s Uffizi Gallery to loan Botticelli’s world famous Birth of Venus to the city of Turin, closer to Milan and more likely to be on tourist itineraries. “Florence doesn’t need Expo as a showcase like Cremona or Reggio,” he argued, “but the Uffizi would find the financial support [generated by the loan] convenient,” hinting at a figure between €600,000 and €800,000. And he criticised the reaction of city fathers of Cremona, who have so far turned down his suggestion, as “useless, parochial hoarding.”

Culture minister Dario Franceschini did not immediately shoot down the suggestion, but declined to comment on a plan as yet without enough detail. “We will examine formal requests with all due scientific rigour and reasonableness,” he told leading news agency ANSA; “anything else is just summer debate.” But he implicitly sided with Cremona when he added, “Expo is not only in Milan but of all of Italy. The challenge that we have to win is to lengthen the stay of all Expo visitors in our country, offering them opportunities and ways to go visit the widespread museum that is Italy.”

Sgarbi, meanwhile, a guest in a TV talk show, let rip with one of his infamous objections. “They don’t want to move the Riace Bronzes,” he asked: “Imbeciles! Criminals! Liars! Hypocrites!”

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