Author: Chiara Cardogna
San Marino was founded in 301 AD and is - beside the Holy See - the only still existing territorial entity of the various independent States on the Italian territory prior to its unification in the 19th century. The Republic of San Marino is 61 km2, has a population of over 31 000 people and is divided up into nine political / administrative municipalities (called Castles).
During the post war years, industrialisation and a revival in tourism were factors which influenced the transformation of San Marino, also from a cultural point of view. The Titano Theatre became a stage for a series of prestigious cultural events as well as traditional civil celebrations. Several contemporary exhibitions organised during the 1950s contributed to the establishment of the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery; the collection of the gallery was made up with works from key exhibitions held throughout the Republic.
In 1950, the first and only edition of the "San Marino Literary Prize" was held in the Republic. This cultural event, organised by the former Government Body for Tourism, saw the participation of the most illustrious intellectuals, poets and writers of that time, whose works were judged by their peers. The prize was unanimously assigned to Eugenio Montale, who participated with a typescript entitled "47 Poems", including a selection of verses composed by him between 1940 and 1950. This typescript became subsequently part of the collection entitled "The storm and other poems". The "San Marino Literary Prize" was the first prize won by Eugenio Montale during his career. On the same occasion, a special prize was assigned also to Leone Traverso for his translations of Eschilo, Gongora, Yeats and George.
In 1956 the San Marino prize for figurative arts, the first important painting event, inaugurated a successful series of San Marino Biennials, which attracted more than 100 000 visitors and gathered 515 artists and 1 312 works. San Marino Biennials caught the attention of the international artistic community and encouraged many painters to take part in these exhibitions. The 6th Biennial which took place in 1967 was, however, the last of this series of exhibitions. Subsequent events organised around the awarding of prizes such as the Olnano Castle Painting Prize (which later became the Serravalle Castle Painting Prize) were held until the 1980s and influenced the State purchase of about 80 works of art.
In the late 1960s, the State Office for Tourism, Sport and Performing Arts, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised several festivals focused on the distinctive aspects of cultures from various parts of the world by involving intellectuals, artists, journalists, ambassadors and Nobel Prize winners of the targeted country. This initiative ended in 1989.
While the 1970s can be characterised as a period of continued focus on the organisation and hosting of several large exhibitions, the 1980s were marked by an important reform of the public administration responsible for culture. Several new cultural institutes were created such as the Office for Social and Cultural Activities. Other State institutions received increased independence such as the State museum, library and archive. The aim of the government's cultural policy was to separate tourism from culture, to grant culture a more official "status" and to promote the image of San Marino; the latter a priority which was carried over into the 1990s. In this context, the main objectives of the government were to promote the active participation of San Marino artists in international fora and to support the cultural development within the country. New centres were opened outside of the city centre (in the Castles of Dogana and Fiorentino) to organise cultural events. Calls were made to open new libraries in the Castles of Serravalle, Domagnano and Faetano.
In 1982, San Marino participated for the first time in the Venice Biennial International Art Exhibition on an equal footing with other countries. In the late 1980s, the role of the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery was discussed more in detail and envisaged as a public museum to monitor and promote new artistic trends. The first step taken in this direction was "Summer 2", which included the participation of local cultural associations and researchers in the selection of public modern art works. Summer 2 was an initiative intended to offer an alternative summer of entertainment and leisure to be held within the city centre, with a variety of spectacular events, exhibitions, shows and theatre performances.
In the late 1990s, the Ministry of Education and Culture became the Ministry of Education and Cultural Institutes, thus stressing a political will to make the cultural sector autonomous and to free it from the staffing obligations of the public sector provided for by law. In 1996 San Marino organised the International Meeting "Cinema and History" and launched the "International Photomeeting". Among the major events organised during these years are the exhibitions: "Giorgio De Chirico", "Salvador Dalì" and "The Goths in San Marino". This last initiative was organised by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Culture. It brought together, for the first time, all pieces of the Treasure of Domagnano scattered in various museums and collections worldwide and stressed the importance of international cooperation in the preservation and circulation of cultural goods.
In general, the cultural policy of the 1990s centred on far-reaching and high-value initiatives, which were to leave a mark and to promote San Marino abroad. The new millennium started with celebrations dedicated to the 2000 Jubilee. Two major exhibitions were organised in cooperation with the Russian State Museum in Saint Petersburg: "From icons to avant-garde. Mysterious treasures of Russian art" and "Christ in the Russian Art. Five centuries of religiousness and faith". These were two absolutely unique and original exhibitions for Western visitors, since it was the first time that Russian art crossed the boundaries of ancient Saint Petersburg. In 2003, the exhibition "Libertatis Fundator: Saint Marino: iconography, art and history", was organised and was dedicated to the Republic's Patron Saint, under the aegis of UNESCO and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer.
In 2009, a new cultural initiative entitled "L'Alba sul Monte" (Sunrise on Mount Titano) was launched. The objective of this initiative is to engender synergy among central government institutions, the Republic's municipalities (called Castles), Township Councils (see chapter 3.2 for details on these local bodies) and cultural expressions and associations in San Marino, while identifying their most interesting and typical aspects in order to propose ad hoc initiatives (see chapter 3.4.6 for details on this and other initiatives).
The two-year period 2010-2011 marks another important step forward for San Marino culture: the exhibition entitled "Monet, Cézanne, Renoir and other stories of painting in France", one of the most prestigious exhibitions ever held in the Republic, attracted thousands of art lovers from San Marino, neighbouring Italy and around the world. This exhibition was shown for five months, from October 2010 to March 2011, and was defined by the government and by the organising banking Foundation (San Marino Foundation - Cassa di Risparmio della Repubblica di San Marino - SUMS) as an important springboard to make San Marino a cultural centre, an arts capital able to attract arts lovers from all over the world. In light of this positive experience, the government intends to explore some opportunities of twinning with Italian and European arts capitals with a view to developing synergies outside the San Marino borders, so that the Republic can become part of a prestigious cultural circuit. In the meantime, confirming the commitment and enthusiasm for important exhibitions, San Marino has become part of the Italian circuit of great art exhibitions, which in 2012 has involved the main cities in Italy. From January to June, San Marino is hosting another high-level cultural event involving art from the USA entitled "From Hopper to Warhol, 20th century American painting in San Marino". Also in this case, the event has been organised in collaboration with the concurrent exhibitions displayed in Castel Sismondo, Rimini, and dedicated to the national painting of the EU countries. Once again, these events have involved the San Marino Foundation - Cassa di Risparmio della Repubblica di San Marino – SUMS, (see also chapter 7.3), the Ministries of Tourism and Culture and some private sponsors. The now consolidated collaboration between the State and the economic world continues to facilitate culturally important events, with considerable positive benefits for tourism and trade.
In 2011, the exhibition "L'Uomo, il Volto, il Mistero. Capolavori dai Musei Vaticani", with some works of art from the Vatican Museums, was displayed at the State Museum to pay homage to the visit paid by Pope Benedict XVI to the Republic of San Marino on 19 June 2011. This exhibition started an important collaboration with the Vatican Museums. Also, the 17th century painting exhibition "Opus Sacrum, Opus Profanum" was included among the initiatives organised on the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Republic. This exhibition included some important paintings from the private collection of Pier Luigi Pizzi, which was shown to the public for the first time in its complete form.
During 2011, several initiatives were organised in the context of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Italian Unification by the Embassy of Italy, in collaboration with the government of San Marino, but also by some cultural associations, such as the Dante Alighieri Association (for further information on this Association, see chapter 3.4.2). By celebrating this anniversary with a series of cultural initiatives, San Marino intended to reaffirm the sentiments of friendship by which the two countries have always been connected.
In December 2012, the first "San Marino Film Festival" turned the small Republic into an international showcase, by welcoming film directors, actors, first transmission of art-house films and short films, with the aim of "promoting the new cinema generations". More than 70 films were projected throughout six days (feature films and short films, both in and out of competition) to pay homage to the poet and scriptwriter Tonino Guerra, from the Romagna Region. This Film Festival extensively explored today's international cinema, leaving much scope not only for young directors, but also to newsreel films and socially relevant films. The San Marino Festival suggested a new development approach for the country, that is to say cultural tourism, and showed the great potential of an international event where the public, in perfect harmony with the private, may work to seize social, economic and employment opportunities (see also chapter 3.4.6 and chapter 6.3).
During the same year, also the first edition of the "San Marino Animæ Festival" was organised. This international festival dedicated to Japanese animation officially gathered for the first time the most important representatives of Japanese animation films in an event organised outside Japan. This unique film festival was a meeting point between Eastern and Western cultures and was the first attempt to present Japanese animation to a European audience. This project promotes the idea of an "international culture" based on a mix of cultures of different countries and on the concepts of peace, brotherhood and liberty. These are the values that bring together San Marino, the most ancient Republic in the world, and Japan, the most ancient imperial dynasty. This Festival was one of the most important events in terms of social and cultural relations between San Marino and Japan.
Finally, the production of stamps and commemorative medals has constantly been a priority for San Marino. Always in great demand, these objects are issued on the occasion of major events to celebrate famous people and promote peace, culture and justice all over the world. Philately and numismatics are still an important tradition in San Marino, as well as being of considerable revenue for the State budget; moreover, they represent a fundamental means of communication and promotion. They are recognised and appreciated throughout the world and have received prestigious awards in the field of advertising and graphic design. The last award received was the D&Ad Pencil Award in 2015, which marks the start of a new artistic cycle, also with regard to the themes chosen.
Chapter published: 07-10-2015