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Riace bronzes may head to Milan for 2015 Expo

President of Lombardy offers to lend two paintings by Caravaggio in return, but conservators must review the statues’ condition

“The statues do not belong to [Reggio Calabria] but to the Italian state,” Sgarbi says

The art critic and curator Vittorio Sgarbi is attempting to bring the Riace bronzes, the two fifth-century BC Greek statues recovered off the Italian coast in 1972, to Milan for the 2015 Expo.

In a controversial interview with the Italian media, he lashed out at the government of Reggio Calabria for “holding the statues hostage” and likened the local politicians to the mafia. “The statues do not belong to them but to the Italian state,” Sgarbi says, “but instead they have been locked in the archaeological museum [of Reggio Calabria] for 33 years, where only around 30,000 people see them annually.” Sgarbi and Roberto Maroni, the president of Lombardy, have even proposed lending two paintings by Caravaggio to Reggio Calabria in return.

Italy’s minister of culture, Dario Franceschini, has welcomed the proposal, but says the matter is up to a committee of conservators who will deem whether it is safe for the statues to be moved. The superintendent for the archaeological heritage of Calabria, Simonetta Bonomi, says a number of hairline cracks, discovered during previous conservation attempts, makes moving them a dangerous process. “The experts will have to take this fact into consideration when making their decision,” Franceschini told the press.

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