NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Italy Considers Privatizing Its Art Galleries

February 14, 2002

When Italy's minister of culture, Giuliano Urbani, proposed last fall opening the state's cultural-heritage sector to private management, he raised a mighty ruckus. Some 37 of the world's most powerful museum directors signed a petition calling it a dangerous scheme.

  • But since 1993, the private sector has been active in Italian museums and archeological sites -- running concessions for ticketing, bookstores, cafes, merchandizing and other services.
  • In the process, Italy's cultural heritage has been modernized -- with long-shut museums being opened, hours being extended, tax incentives being created for arts patrons and reforms in the arts ministry.
  • Privatization makes particular sense in Italy, which doesn't have the endowments that keep their American counterparts afloat.
  • Taking privatization a step further would provide additional benefits -- since museum directors do not have the power to hire or allocate their own staffs and face an antiquated job structure made up almost entirely of guards.

Source: Frederika Randall, "Privatize the Arts in Italy? Egads!" Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2002.


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