BREAKING: Critics Grumble as Rome’s MAXXI Foundation Names New Director

Giovanna Melandri, who served as Italy’s Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities under prime minister Massimo D’Alema between 1998 and 2001, has been named the new president of the National Museum of 21st Century Arts (MAXXI). While experts have cited her fundraising experience as well as her having recruited architect Zaha Hadid to design MAXXI’s current building in Rome when explaining the nomination, Corriere della Sera newspaper reports that current culture minister Lorenzo Ornaghi will elaborate on the reasons for his choice at a press conference next Tuesday.

While Melandri’s appointment comes at a time of relative calm for the young institution, the last twelve months have been a roller-coaster. Though the museum was forcibly taken over by a government-appointed commissariat in April after a dispute over budget concerns, the Corriere reports that corporate sponsorships have risen astoundingly, from €812,000 ($1.06 million) to €2.3 million ($3 million), in the past five months.

Even though few lawmakers contest Melandri’s achievements, the Corriere has already reported a flood of criticism at Ornaghi’s choice from officials from both the right- and the left-of-center. Many have noted that the two are currently colleagues, and have made accusations of cronyism.

“I have great personal esteem for Melandri,” Nichi Vendola, a leader of the eco-socialist SEL coalition, told the Corriere. “but her nomination to the presidency of MAXXI is a stylistically complicated problem to digest. This is not an elegant gesture on the part of the government.”

Gian Luca Galletti, the president of the right-of-center Christian Democrat Union in the Chamber of Deputies, agrees. “Notwithstanding our respectful relationship with regard to the honorable Giovanna Melandri,” he said, “we maintain that it was a completely inappropriate choice by minister Lorenzo Ornaghi to nominate a colleague to the MAXXI presidency.”

— Reid Singer