United States and Italian Cultural Leaders Meet to Discuss Improved Cultural Exchange

For Immediate Release

November 28, 2007

A conference was held in Rome today between leaders of American and Italian museums and cultural organizations to discuss ways to foster improved cooperation between the two countries that would lead to enhanced intellectual and cultural exchange.

Co-organized and sponsored by the American Academy in Rome and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute of Williamstown, Massachusetts, the conference took place at a positive time in the history of cultural exchange between the two countries following the recent successful resolution of many high-profile cultural property issues. This resolution has fostered a collegial atmosphere for the frank and open discussion of ideas and strategies to improve relations.

While there are many close ties between the United States and Italy there are certain logistical and institutional barriers that have made smooth cultural collaboration difficult in the past. The leaders met to discuss these obstacles openly in a non-public forum so as to collectively develop strategies to overcome the obstacles and capitalize on opportunities for the free exchange of ideas for the benefit of the public in both countries.

The conference was highly productive and collegial with the cultural leadership of both countries committed to reaching a higher level of cooperation on several issues.

Italian Cultural Minister Francesco Rutelli spoke of the establishment of an office in the Cultural Ministry to coordinate loans of works of art and facilitate cooperation. The American Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) could play a similar role in the U.S.

Other initiatives discussed included online educational projects and web-based information sharing as well as convening professionals in the two countries to examine issues of restoration and conservation.

Future archeological excavations were touched on with a desire for ongoing cooperation and emphasis on context and historical understanding.

The conference occurred at a time when requests from Italy for loans of American objects have increased exponentially. Institutional and public interest in American art of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries has never been stronger in Italy. With strong holdings in these areas, U.S. museums currently loan many more objects to Italian institutions than the reverse. Logistics around the security and safe transport of works of art and the timing of loan requests and facility requirements of the two countries was one of the topics discussed in depth.

Co-organized by Michael Conforti, Director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, and Gianfranco Varvesi of the Italian Ministry of National Heritage and Cultural Activities, the conference was held at the American Academy in Rome. It opened the evening before at a reception at the private residence of Ronald Spogli, the U.S. Ambassador to Italy. In his welcoming remarks, Ambassador Spogli noted “The United States and Italy are at an important moment in cultural and artistic exchange. I have no doubt that this conference will result in a reinvigorated program of exchanges between our two countries.”

Cultural Minister Francesco Rutelli spoke to the conference attendees at the American Academy expressing the hope that “…we share the cultural riches of both countries for the hundreds of thousands who visit museums. Museum visitors, though, should not be just cultural tourists but members of the public at all ages, and we should work collectively to enhance the museum going experience.”

The closed-door conference sessions were attended by 28 American and Italian museum and cultural officials. The American delegation of 9 participants included Anne-Imelda Radice, Director of the U.S. government’s Institute of Museum and Library Services, and James N. Wood, President and CEO of The Getty Trust. AAMD was represented by James Ballinger, Director of the Phoenix Art Museum and immediate past President of AAMD, and Michael Conforti, AAMD President-elect.

The Italians were represented by Cristina Acidini, Special Superintendent of Polo Museale Florence, and Maria Vittoria Clarelli, Superintendent of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome. Other Italian representatives included Stefano De Caro, Director General of Beni Archeologici; Claudio Strinati, Special Superintendent of Polo Museale Rome; and Salvatore Settis, Director of the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa.

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