“Recapture the Venetians”: controversy over Museum Foundation Director Belli’s words

[Note: there has been an ongoing controversy about the closure of Venice’s Civic Museums until April. The official position is presented below in Gabriella Belli’s statements, which have generated some controversy of their own: the museums are for tourists, we won’t spend money opening them for the local population, future initiatives are being planned – with the mainland. Meanwhile a few quotes from key people in the issue may serve to further clarify:
  • “Why are the museums closed? There are no tourists, and we can’t throw away money.” – Mayor Luigi Brungaro
  • “[The museums] are not closed…they can be opened by request of hotel owners or tour operators. We are waiting for a greater flow of tourists […] If the public grows, we are here”. – Mariacristina Gribaudi, President of the Fondazione dei Musei Civici
  • “With the museums closed, the lights off and an almost perfect climate during the lockdown, the heritage has almost regenerated itself”. – Gabriella Belli, Director of the Fondazione dei Musei Civici.
That last quote isn’t an official position, but it does seem like a strange thing for a Museum Foundation Director to say – it’s better for the exhibits if there are no people? The pandemic creates an ‘almost perfect climate?” Ed.]


By Vera Mantengoli

15 January 2021

“We have discovered that we must completely conquer the area and the veneziano (…). We are performing a grand critical examination, which should bring the Fondazione Musei Civici to new public and proximity goals, and to the construction of a more solid relationship with the area”. At one year since the beginning of the pandemic yesterday afternoon the Director of the Fondazione Musei Civici, Gabriella Belli spoke over live streaming to the More Museum conference on the future of museums, organized by Muse di Firenze. At the center of her talk, which lasted ten minutes, the Director reflected on the fact that in a city like Venice, “dedicated and open to tourism in a positive sense”, what is happening is “a curious situation”, or rather that of finding a way to win over the public in the area and not an international public, as instead happens in the majority of the city. This is a central problem that Venetians have raised for some time, in particular in recent weeks when, instead of finding a way to keep the museums open to the city (if not all of them then at least in turns or only some, as citizens have proposed) they have been closed by the Mayor until the beginning of April.

Belli did not address the issue head on, but explained that, although government funding has contributed to balancing the Fondazione Musei Civici’s budget, “the uncertainty of the pandemic requires us to manage the budget accurately, but we want to reopen as soon as possible”. The other points she touched on were praise for the birth of foundations that have given much to Italian museology and removed a bureaucratic burden from municipal structures; the “Venice model” with 100% self-financing thanks to ticket sales and prodigious fundraising; the green future of museums and, finally, the project to reconquer the mainland “because the mainland has always been very important for Venice and we believe that on the mainland we can launch many important initiatives”. In sum, positions already known were reiterated and in could have been otherwise given that Belli and the president of the Fondazione Maria Cristina Gribaudi are working under extended contracts as far as their mandates go.

“They need to begin working with and for the community and not only for tourism,” said PD Counselors Monica Sambo and Giuseppe Saccà, adding that a request had been made for access to the documents to verify if the closure of the museums and the furlough of the workers had been wanted by Mayor Luigi Brugnaro or had it actually been voted for by the CDA of the Foundation.


-Source: La Nuova Venezia

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