Museums News Italy

Riace Bronzes expected to finally go back on display

As the city of Reggio Calabria tentatively prepares to welcome back its star pieces, the EU has provided over €100m for a series of other cultural projects

The boys are back: the Riace Bronzes are expected to go on display in January 2014

The Riace Bronzes, the fifth-century BC Greek sculptures that have become a symbol of Italy’s inefficient cultural policies, are scheduled to make a public comeback. The bronzes were discovered off the coast of Calabria almost 40 years ago and are the most famous examples of southern Italy’s cultural links with Hellenic civilisation. They have not been on public display since 2008, when their home, Reggio Calabria’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale, embarked on a renovation project that has been blighted by delays, spiralling costs and accusations of corruption and mismanagement.

Massimo Bray, Italy’s new minister of culture, has announced that the statues, which have been in storage, will go back on display in the museum in January 2014, even though renovation works will not yet be complete. If all goes to plan, the museum, initially scheduled for completion in March 2011, will open a few months later, in spring 2014. The building works, which will add 9,300 sq. m of exhibition space as well as protection from earthquakes, were initially estimated at €11m but ballooned to over €30m, of which €5m was outstanding. The European Union (EU) has supplied balance from funds set aside for some of the least developed areas in Europe.

Other projects

The return of the Riace Bronzes is part of a wider strategy, adopted by the city’s government, to put Reggio Calabria back on the cultural map and reflect Massimo Bray’s maxim that the cultural economy is Italy’s ticket out of financial turmoil. The city government was replaced by commissioners after it was disbanded, in October 2012, for involvement with the mafia. At the time, the city’s coffers were empty, but the commissioners, lead by Vincenzo Panico, have successfully brought EU funds for the city. A number of local institutions are undergoing major facelifts that will maximise the impact of Reggio Calabria’s extensive art collection, although not all the projects are moving forward according to plan.

The EU is funding the Zaha Hadid-designed Regium Waterfront project, consisting of a multi-purpose cultural centre and the Museo del Mediterraneo, dedicated to Greek and Roman antiquities. Initial estimates put a €47m price tag on the whole project, but it turns out that the museum alone will now cost €56m, and so plans for the cultural centre have been put on hold. The museum itself is reportedly scheduled for completion in 2015.

The restoration of the city’s famous Aragonese Castle, officially thought to have been built in AD536 but with origins that stretch back to the Hellenic period, has also been beset by delays. Work stalled soon after it began in 2010, but a €45m grant from the EU has been approved to expand exhibition space and modernise the site’s infrastructure, and construction has now resumed.

Also in flux is the former Monastero della Visitazione, built in 1754, that will house the art collection belonging to the city’s Pinacoteca (public art gallery), which has not had a permanent home since it was founded in 2008. The former monastery will become a cultural centre and its ground floor will be home to the Pinacoteca’s collection of art from the 15th to the 20th centuries, thanks to a €2.5m EU grant. Its opening has been delayed, however, from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013.

Meanwhile, the pavement of the city’s run-down Piazza del Duomo is being restored, along with its buildings’ façades, at a cost of €1.2m.

The Riace Bronzes have not been on public view since 2008, when the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Reggio Calabria started its expansion
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