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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Turin's top museum official quits in row with Five Star mayor | World news | The Guardian

Turin's top museum official quits in row with Five Star mayor

The row between Patrizia Asproni and Appendino, who is a rising star in the populist Five Star Movement, erupted last week after it was revealed that a major sponsor of a proposed Édouard Manet exhibition was backing out of a plan to host the show in Turin and was favouring Milan instead.

After claiming to have been caught off guard by the news, Appendino called for Asproni’s resignation as head of the Turin Museum Foundation, which helps to manage the city’s main museums and has been credited for enhancing its reputation as a cultural hub in Italy.

“The city cannot tolerate that the foundation is not able to maintain relationships with important sponsors,” Appendino told reporters, adding that it was the second time she had learned of such important news through the press.

But people familiar with the row say the fight is about much more than just the Manet exhibit. Instead, it is about a clash of values between an upstart politician who has vowed to shake up the city, and anger among Turin’s cultural champions, who say they are unsure about the mayor’s intentions when it comes to supporting the arts.

In her campaign to become mayor, Appendino emphasised that Turin, which is home to a museum that houses the second largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world, ought to avoid hosting large “blockbuster” exhibitions and focus instead on making the city’s museums more accessible for the local population. It was a message that did not go down well with the Manet exhibition sponsors, who reportedly felt alienated by the apparent lack of interest.

Asproni, who was appointed by Appendino’s immediate predecessor, Piero Fassino, said she sought to work with the new mayor but was repeatedly rebuffed when she tried to get a personal meeting last June. The mayor’s first availability was 24 October, Asproni was reportedly told at the time. Appendino officially took office on 30 June.

“It is a terrible thing that the mayor wants to decide which exhibitions go to museums,” Asproni said in an interview on Monday. “I think this [calling for my resignation] was a political move because of course I arrived with the previous mayor and he asked me to build the culture of the town and I said: ‘Yes, of course, why not?’”

Asproni said she worked for free as a civil servant in an independent role and that she was upset by the lack of respect the mayor showed her, in large part because she said she had nothing to do with the sponsor’s decision not to have the Manet exhibition in Turin.

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