Italy’s culture minister has designated Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, a right-wing journalist and author whose books include a literary portrait of Silvio Berlusconi, as the next president of the Venice Biennale. Members of Italy’s ruling coalition have claimed the move will remove a left wing stranglehold over the 128-year-old organisation, while opposition politicians have accused the government of carrying out an “assault” on the country’s cultural institutions.
Raffaele Speranzon, a Venice born senator for Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, revealed the designation in a press note that was circulated yesterday before an official announcement had been made. “Another glass ceiling has been shattered,” Speranzon said in the note. ”The left thought of the Biennale Foundation as a fiefdom where it could place friends and acolytes. Buttafuoco represents the kind of sea change the Meloni government wants to extend to every cultural and social institution in the nation: figures will be chosen for their depth, competence and experience alone.”
Gennaro Sangiuliano, the culture minister, subsequently confirmed the designation. The proposal will now be evaluated by the cultural commissions of Italy’s Senate and House of Deputies before the nomination is officialised with a decree.
Buttafuoco is a former leader of the Fronte della Gioventù, the youth wing of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement party that is a forebear of Brothers of Italy, and began his career as a journalist for a number of right-wing Italian newspapers and magazines. He was president of the Teatro Stabile theatre in Catania, his birth town, from 2007 to 2012, and is currently president of the Teatro Stabile d’Abruzzo in L'Aquila. His latest book is titled Beato lui (or Blessed is he). A Paean to the arch-Italian Silvio Berlusconi.
Roberto Cicutto, the Biennale’s current president, will now step down in March next year, when his contract ends. Since his appointment in 2020, Cicutto has spearheaded efforts to transform the Biennale’s Historical Archive into an evergreen research hub. Plans have been made to relocate the Archive from Port of Marghera to the former Corderie in the Arsenal by 2026.
Rachele Scarpa, a left-wing parliamentarian representing Venice, said Buttafuoco’s announcement offered “a chilling vision of how the right thinks about the cultural institutions of our country”. Irene Manzi, a member of the culture committee at the House of Deputies, said: “Today the right has taken another step in its conception of the state as something it owns. The right’s assault on the cultural institutions of our country is extremely worrying.”
The ruling coalition was accused of meddling in culture earlier this year when it ejected Carlo Fuortes, managing director of the public broadcaster Rai, to make way for its favoured candidate, Roberto Sergio. Last month, right wing politicians called on Christian Greco, director of Turin’s Egyptian Museum, to resign because of his decision in 2018 to offer discounted tickets to speakers of Arabic. Andrea Crippa, deputy leader of Matteo Salvini's League party, depicted the initiative as “racist towards Italians”.