Exhibitions Museums Controversies Italy

Holey war in Venice

A visitor says museum authorities are to blame for damaging the Doge’s Palace by drilling holes for a climate control system, organisation’s director calls it a “bizarre accusation”

The exhibition “Manet: Return to Venice” ran at the Doge's Palace until 1 September

Venice’s museum authorities have hit back after being blamed by a visitor for damaging the Doge's Palace during the installation of the show “Manet: Return to Venice”. Gabriella Belli, the director of the Fondazione Musei Civici, which oversees the historic venue, has called it a “bizarre accusation”.

Belli’s comment comes two weeks after a visitor to the Doge’s Palace filed a report to the city's culture and heritage arm of the Carabinieri, claiming between 30 and 35 holes, each with a diameter between 6cm and 7cm, were reportedly drilled into the walls of at least seven rooms on the first floor to support a climate control system that would protect Manet’s paintings. The report also claimed that the system weakened the floor of one of the rooms—the Sala degli Scudieri.

Belli says that the climate control system was installed by an established company with sophisticated knowledge of the palace structure, adding that work was carried out in accordance with the guidelines followed by all international museums. The holes were drilled only in approved, non-historic parts of the walls. She also says the floor damage in the Sala degli Scudieri has been known to the museum for a number of years and is not a result of the Manet exhibition.

“Manet: Return to Venice”, which closed on 1 September, included many paintings from the Museé d’Orsay’s collection, such as Olympia, 1863, which had never been lent before.

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