Italy Crowdsources Art Conservation Decision

The winner: Perugino's Madonna and child, dating to the end of the 15th century
The winner: Perugino’s Madonna and child, dating to the end of the 15th century (via Italian Culture Minister Massimo Bray on Twitter)

Stories of Italy struggling to save its cultural heritage amid governmental dysfunction and a lack of funds are commonplace these days. But tales of the Italians getting creative with their efforts have been springing up too, and a piece from NPR yesterday points to another example: a program called L’Arte Aiuta L’Arte, or “Art Helps Art.” As the NPR article explains it:

The government selected eight pieces of art from across Italy deemed to be in need of repair … Then, it posted pictures of them on Facebook, and asked people to vote for the work they felt was most deserving of a fix-up. The work that draws the most clicks wins the money raised at these late-night events [which included extended museum hours and concerts and performances at participating institutions].

So, in a country where so much is in need in of conservation, the government crowdsourced a decision about what to conserve.

The eight artworks put up for a vote were: an ancient Roman horse from the 1st century CE, a painted cross by a Florentine artist, a painting of Judith and Holofernes by Nicolas Renier, a Madonna and child by Pietro Perugino, a Madonna and child by an artist in Raphael’s circle, a nativity scene and a presentation of Jesus at the temple by artists of the Flemish school, and a landscape featuring John the Baptist by Francesco Zuccarelli. The winner of the vote, which lasted a little over two weeks, was Perugino’s Madonna and child, which is dated to the end of the 15th century and housed in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.

According to a press release on the Italian government’s website, some 2,326 people voted in the contest. Of those who participated in a survey about the voting, 73% were women, and the majority were between 18 and 35 years old and had a postgraduate degree. The region with the largest number of voters was Campania — whose capital city is Naples.

Predictably, the press release couches the vote in broad enthusiastic terms, as part of the Culture Ministry’s attempt to open up museums and encourage younger Italians to engage with their cultural patrimony. It does not say how much money was ultimately raised through the nighttime events, and whether it will be enough to pay for the complete restoration of the Perugino. It also doesn’t specify how the government will allocate the money to make sure it isn’t mismanaged, which anyone who follows Italian cultural news knows is a recurring problem.

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