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Italy/ 8.1 Support to artists and other creative workers  

8.1.1 Overview of strategies, programmes and direct or indirect forms of support

Performing artists in Italy mostly receive indirect government support. They make their living mainly through their work for performing arts organisations, most of which are more or less subsidised from the public purse. They also enjoy a favourable social security system (see chapter 5.1.4). Unlike in France and in other countries, though, there are no measures in favour of unemployed performing artists: which is a problematic situation in times of financial downturn.

On the other hand (see chapter 1 and chapter 5.3.1), the situation of Italian visual artists is much less favourable. Since the post war time they do not enjoy any substantial direct or indirect government support, and they actually make their living either in the marketplace (if they manage to reach fame) or, more frequently, through second jobs (mainly teaching at schools or arts academies).

The main legal provision in their favour – inherited from fascist times (see chapter 1) - is Law 717/1949 on "2% for the arts", establishing that 2% of the investment costs of any public building (with the exception of schools) should be allocated to the commissioning of a work of art by a living artist. Due to the questionable criteria adopted in the choice of eligible artists, the law largely remained ineffective. In recent times, however, it seems that it has been more frequently implemented, notably in the case of subways, jails and army barracks: however, exhaustive information is not available. A long overdue reform of Law 717 – foreseen in the framework of the Draft Law for Architectural Quality (see  chapter 5.3.1 and chapter 5.3.5) – is still waiting to be carried out.

Another measure in support of contemporary artistic creativity is the already mentioned art. 3 of Law n. 29/2001 (see chapter 5.3.1), providing for the drafting of Plans for Contemporary Art aimed at increasing the national asset of contemporary works of art by living artists less than 50 years old, including photography, industrial design and architectural plans.The law is implemented by means of triennial plans drafted by the MiBACT in agreement with its main beneficiaries: the national museums and galleries of modern and contemporary art. However, its endowment for 2013 was only 1.6 million EUR, which was declared "shameful" by Minister Bray.

In addition, compared with the other European countries, and in particular Northern European countries, Italian post-war legislation in general has not been very supportive of visual artists, who neither enjoy ad hoc social security measures or fiscal incentives, nor have regular access to travel grants, low rental rates for working spaces, etc. As far as the latter are concerned, though, an ad hoc measure in favour of young artists has been adopted for the first time in the framework of Leg. Decree n. 91/2013. According to the Decree (art. 6), in order "to foster the availability of areas for the creation and production of contemporary arts", the Minister of the Cultural Heritage should single out every year a list of unused real estate properties belonging to the state administration to be hired at low rental prices as working spaces to cooperatives or associations of artists aged between 18 and 35.

Until recently, government support for the promotion of contemporary creation in the visual arts has been mostly indirectly provided for through the three main national exhibiting institutions for contemporary visual arts: the Biennale di Venezia, the Triennale di Milano and the Quadriennale di Roma, all of which recently underwent, by law, substantial reorganisation measures.

Increased indirect support to visual artists and architects, as well as to the promotion of contemporary art, though, is presently also at the core of the activities of the new Museum of the Arts of the XXI century/MAXXI (see also chapter 5.3.1). Successfully inaugurated in spring 2010,MAXXI – located in a bold, spectacular building created by archistar Zaha Hadid on the grounds of an old army barracks - has actually been conceived not only as a museum with a permanent collection and exhibition spaces, but also as a laboratory considered to be of strategic importance for research and experimentation in interdisciplinary artistic creativity. While the state allows public-private partnership, until recently the museum had only been supported by the state. Finally, in 2015, MAXXI was able to attract private financial support, with ENEL/Ente Nazionale Energia Elettrica becoming its "founding partner", allocating 1.8 million EUR over three years to the museum, plus other benefits and "in kind" support through delivering electricity for its special lighting.

An unconventional "third sector" actor – GAI / Associazione per il Circuito dei Giovani Artisti Italiani – should be singled out, as well, for its innovative and longstanding training, promotional and research activities in support of "youth creativity". From the legal point of view, GAI - started in 1989 -is an association representing 39 local administrations (regional and municipal authorities) and private partners.Since 2001 it has also created a portal – – providing information and resources in the field of the visual and the performing arts, as well as a database of young creators. GAI is also the Italian coordinator for the Pépinières Européennes pour Jeunes Artistes.

As far as youth creativity is concerned, it should also be noted that the municipality of Milan hosted the XVII Mediterranean Young Artists Biennale in October 2015, which saw the participation of more than 300 visual arts, performing arts and media artists from the Mediterranean countries of the Northern and Southern shores.

Finally, banking foundations are increasingly supporting youth creativity in the arts sector, by launching new call for proposals such as "Promoting Youth Creativity" (Fondazione Cariplo) and "Creative Generation" (Compagnia di San Paolo). The call "UNDER35" (Fund for Youth Cultural Enterprise) in particular should be singled out, being the result of a cooperation between 10 banking Foundations from North and Central Italy.

Chapter published: 15-07-2016

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