Museums Conservation Italy

Bronze warriors back on their feet at last

But the museum housing them is far from standing tall

Regional and culture ministry officials view one of the two bronzes

The Riace Bronzes are back on their feet and on display in the Museo Archeologico di Reggio Calabria, in the south of Italy. The museum itself, however, is far from standing.

The two ancient Greek statues of warriors, which date back to the fifth century BC, have been seen by around 17,000 people in the first fortnight after they went back on display at the end of December, after spending five years in storage. Visitors, who enter in groups of 20, must pass through a decontamination room fitted with air purifiers before being granted access to the statues.

Plagued by delays

The museum’s renovation is still not finished, however, and its completion date has been put back again, from April to June. The project has been plagued by delays (the bronzes were initially due to go back on display in March 2011), and costs have spiralled from €11m to €30m.

A new underground hall, designed by the architect Nicola di Battista, the director of the international architecture publication Domus, was expected to provide 2,000 sq. m of additional exhibition space, and Italy’s minister of culture approved the plans late last year, securing €10.5m of EU funding. But pressure from local groups and politicians forced the ministry first to halt and then cancel the project. They argued that building work could damage underground archaeological remains and that the funds could have been better spent on more pressing city issues.

Di Battista has expressed his disappointment, saying that “the city had been given ample time to object, from October 2010 to January 2013”.

What will happen remains to be seen, because the regional authorities must either present an entirely new proposal or amend the current one without missing the completion deadline of June 2015, or they could lose the funding.

Whatever happens with the museum, the Riace Bronzes are there to stay, since the ministry of culture has voted against sending them to Milan’s Expo 2015 to serve as a symbol of Italy’s cultural heritage.

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