Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Arrivederci Culture Minister Rutelli-- Is It Now Finally Time for a Rational Cultural Property Policy in Italy?

The electoral defeat of Italian Culture Minister Rutelli's Center Left Coalition by flamboyant billionaire politician Silvio Berlusconi's Center Right Coalition demonstrates that efforts to divert the public's attention from political and economic problems with nationalistic exhibits of repatriated "trophy art" like the "Nostoi" exhibit simply do not work in the long run.

If so, Italy may have also in a sense come full circle on the issue. Indeed, it has been suggested that the investigation that culminated in the Nostoi exhibit was at least in part a politically motivated effort to embarrass the last Berlusconi government, which, after all, had taken some steps to change Italy's outdated and ineffective cultural property laws in favor of ones that recognized the obvious-- that many otherwise law abiding Italians hold unregistered antiquities. If nothing else, this theory may help explain why an obscure Italian Magistrate decided to press his investigation decades after the antiquities were illicitly excavated and some ten years after after poloroids picturing antiquities in several American Museums were discovered along with other illicit antiquities in a warehouse in Switzerland.

In any event, the Italian electorate will now rightly expect the new Berlusconi Government to tackle Italy's immense economic problems, but after that, perhaps the new Government will again consider reforms to Italy's outdated and unrealistic cultural property laws. Hopefully in doing so, Italy will recognize that the State and the Archaeological community are simply incapable of being good stewards to everything and anything "old" and that collectors deserve to be recognized as the best custodians for at least some types of "cultural property."

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