Published on Sunday, January 23rd, 2011
Cultural resources. Too bad that, to look at them now, they remind tone of the enflamed wells of Kuwait after Saddam escaped at the tail end of Desert Storm
. Quite a long time has passed since Gianni De Michelisí intuition. He was Minister of Labour then and he made available 536 billion lire for projects to digitally inventory art works and sites of value. That was 1987. The memory of those billions is lost, we donít know where they disappeared to, under which form of bureaucracy they disappeared down the drain in the midst of the desolate general impoverishment. These cultural "wells", at present, are rusted skeletons that have been locked for quite some time. Instead of bubbling, they occasionally roar. Pompeii-style.
The cultural sector in Italy is affected by one major problem: money.
Itís non-existent at all levels. From museums to opera houses, from archaeological sites to that imaginative and mysterious object that is the "landscape". Its European Community definition is clear and comprehensive Ė yet, never fully assimilated in Italy Ėa lot of care should be put at its service. In spite of the theme being a hot one, the most recent discussion dates back to over twenty years ago. The fragility of the market crisis forces rigid and practical attentions to the public debt. Today itís even difficult to be a debtors, and admist the rampant cuts the weakest sectors end up with their backs to the wall. The extent of cuts made to marginalize culture is outstanding and it calls for a genuine effort of responsibility. The cultural sector, called to support itself - certainly not exclusively - itís flails tragically. Tremontiís uttering in the Council of Ministers, the now-famous sentence: "We cannot eat with culture
", marks the passage of an alarming loss in terms of political strategies. But it also reveals the nakedness of a ruthless king who hasnít even bothered to change his underwear from quite a long time.
Money is lacking and government doesnít help. In Spain, Germany, France and Switzerland the administrative entities assist a lot more. At this moment in time Italy is rather closer to other models: Greece, Portugal and Ireland. In an attempt to assume as little responsibility as possible Cultural Minister Bondi has accused the system. Such a risky attempt had a boomerang effect, more so in these years of the legacy of Brunetta, where any failing on the part of government employees whatsoever is read as an evidence of political weakness. Yet, there lies an element of truth: POIN and POR, horrid abbreviations adopted by European-Community for measures to support cultural works in Southern Italy, have made available around 6 billion euro between 2007 and 2013.
The commitment of expenditure is slightly over 420 million and the money actually spent is not even 300 million. The political sector is enormously at fault: guilty in the past of removing accountability from an industry that is unable to spend the little they have; and more recently since, while in the past at least some funds were allocated, today funding has dried up completely.
In such a desolate landscape, the reactions tend towards the usual whining. Many people, without suggesting an acceptable formula, ask for an unspecified action by a private entrepreneur, a deus ex machina rescuer putting his hand on the heart and the other in his back pocket. The criticism towards Italian tax system, which would allegedly inhibit donations to culture and frustrate the fund raising, are in fact specious: since 2000 taxes on cultural investments have been relieved, bringing us into line with other European countries.
The advent of Mario Resca in the landscape of our local culture has come to many as a disappointment. The momentum towards the creation of the museum-based company could be, regardless of its ethical connotations, a more structured option as opposed to the spectacle of the "big event" exhibition: while the Louvre plans to collect 400 million euro from travelling to Abu Dhabi (by 2013), the latest news Resca has given comes from Cuba, where Caravaggio will be taken in 2011. What is he going to have in return?