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Italy/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.1 Visual and applied arts

After the considerable attention towards contemporary arts brought about by the fascist minister Giuseppe Bottai (see  chapter 1), there has been a long gap in government consideration during the entire second half of the past century.

The only legislative measure directly supporting contemporary creation in the visual arts at the national level was Law 717/1949, a modification of a 1942 Law providing for the allocation of 2% of the costs of capital investment in public buildings to "embellish" the buildings by works of contemporary artists to be chosen by public competition (see chapter 8.1). The law, though subsequently again modified in 1960 and in 1997, was rarely implemented, and the selection criteria have been much questioned. The last of several attempts to reform Law 717 had been tried by Minister Bondi in the frame of his Draft Law on Architectural Quality adopted by the Cabinet in 2008, but it did not go beyond Parliamentary discussion (see chapter 5.3.5). The highlights of this much needed proposed reform was the replacement of the obsolete concept of ex post "embellishment" of buildings by the concept of a full integration of the artistic and architectural aspects since the building's planning procedure. Moreover, the 2% requirement would have been made compulsory, by preventing the building plan to be adopted in its absence.

On the other hand, to make up for the endemic lack of financial resources in support of contemporary arts, Law 29/2001 (art. 3) called for the institution of an annual plan for contemporary art, then endowed with 5 million EUR, aimed at fostering the public asset of contemporary artworks in national museums and galleries. Tested in 2001, the law has since then been quite effective in pursuing its aim (see chapter 8.1.1), albeit with progressively diminished resources: only 1.6 million EUR for 2013, half of which is allocated to the financial support of MAXXI.

Another legacy of the already quoted pre-war attention to the visual arts had been the introduction of droit de suite on further sales of works of art, as a part of the Copyright Law 633/1941 (see chapter 5.1.7).Italian artists, though, had to wait for the initiative of the European Union to see it finally implemented after about three quarters of a century. The law came into force thanks to Leg. Decree 118/2006 –a follow up of the European Directive 84/200 – whereas the related implementing regulation was adopted at the end of 2007 (see chapter 5.1.7).

As far as the governance of state promotion and support of the contemporary visual arts is concerned, an organic overall legislative measure had been adopted in 2001 by Decree 449 on the reorganisation of the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities, through which an ad hoc DG for Contemporary Arts and Architecture was created, thus separating the related competencies from the DG for Historic and Artistic Goods, where they had been previously confined to a marginal role. This had been considered a much needed turning point for a country which had been "remarkably silent on visual arts policy", also because of "the long shadow cast by heritage", and where "the marketplace apart, the main public contribution to the contemporary visual arts comes from the local authorities" (Council of Europe, 1995). However, an institutional drawback was accomplished in 2009, through Decree 91/2009, providing for a new reorganisation of the Ministry by which responsibility for Contemporary Arts was returned to the DG for Historic and Artistic Goods - transformed into the DG for Landscape, Fine Arts, Architecture and Contemporary Arts (see chapter 3.1 and chapter 3.2).

More recently, though - the need to boost action in support of contemporary creativity ranked high in the priorities of Minister Franceschini – in the Decree of 29 August 2014 reforming MiBACT's organisational structure, and a DG for Contemporary Art, Architecture and Urban Suburbs came up again. The latter addition is due to the fact that, in the minister's plan, urban suburbs should be regenerated and reshaped through additional resources made available for special investments in contemporary art and architectural projects (see also chapter 5.3.5).

It should be noted that Decree 91/2009 hadalsoprovided for the transformation of the Museum of Architecture and Contemporary Art into the new Foundation MAXXI Museum for Architecture and the Arts of the XXI Century, successfully inaugurated in spring 2010 (see also chapter 8.1). The museum is not meant only as an exhibition space, but also as a centre for promoting research and innovation in the domain of the visual arts.

Chapter published: 15-07-2016

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