Antiquities Telethon

Even in Italy, where cultural policy plays a bigger role in politics than perhaps any other nation, funds for preserving and protecting objects and sites are hard to come by. As such Italy and Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli have resorted to a 3-day telethon to publicize the return of works from the Getty and to raise much-needed funds. One wonders how much of this is needed to raise funds and how much is political posturing. From Tom Kington’s report in today’s Guardian:

To soaring music by Ennio Morricone, seven sites featured in rotating TV spots, including Augustus’s villa where the frescos and flooring are decaying, the Sulky Punic necropolis in Sardinia, dating back to the fourth century BC, and an abandoned Norman fort near Cosenza.

Organisers also made room for more recent sites such as the Racconigi Royal Park in Cuneo, where a restoration project is needed for the 19th-century greenhouse in which the first Italian pineapples were grown. Also to benefit is Cremona’s centre for the restoration of antique musical instruments, as well as a rusty 19th-century railway line which connects the Sicilian baroque towns of Syracuse, Modica and Ragusa. If viewers cough up, the train will be turned into a museum on wheels for visitors.

The most modern candidate was championed by opera singer Andrea Bocelli: a museum for visually impaired people in Ancona lets visitors run their hands along reproductions of sculptures and archaeological finds.

Italy’s culture ministry pointed out that Italians only donated €42m in 2006 to protect their cultural heritage, compared with the €350m handed over by the French.

As the weekend drew to a close, donations were nearing the target, albeit with €300,000 of that coming from a US foundation.

The telethon comes amid rising resentment in Italy at the perceived free-spending habits of privileged politicians.

In an attempt to give an example of honest toil by politicians, Mr Rutelli displayed some of the artworks Italy claims were stolen and smuggled from its shores and has won back through the courts from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Mr Rutelli said the works would go on free display at the Quirinale in Rome, the sprawling presidential palace which has taken centre stage in the row over politicians’ spending after it was revealed that the cost of maintaining the president and his army of guardsmen, gardeners and silver polishers was higher than that of Buckingham Palace.

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