Economics Museums Italy

Why build a €8m expansion for a museum that only makes €30 a day?

The future seems uncertain for the Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato, near Florence

The delayed €8m extension for the struggling Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato

Tough times lie ahead for the Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato, the only contemporary art museum in Tuscany. Over the course of 2012, the institution—located 20km north of the art-rich city of Florence—only sold 760 tickets for a total sum of €11,921, which averages out at €30 a day.

The exhibition programme has been put on hold, the library and learning centre have closed, and all the staff has been placed on compulsory summer leave. In addition, neither the institution’s artistic director, Marco Bazzini, nor its administrative director, Elisabetta Dimundo, have had their contracts renewed since they expired in July.

This situation forms an unlikely and worrying backdrop to the city of Prato’s current plans to expand the museum at a cost of €8m—the bulk drawn from the regional government’s coffers and €2m from the city’s own pocket. The architect Maurice Nio has designed a large, ring-like structure that would rest on top of the original building, but construction problems have pushed back its estimated completion from 2012 to 2014.

Opinion on the project is divided. The critic and curator Francesco Bonami says “the centre was born dead so what’s the point of expanding it?” and adds that the exhibition programme was badly conceived to begin with. Meanwhile, Roberto Cenni, who is both the president of the Centro Pecci and the mayor of Prato, says the museum will reopen in April 2013 and that its two directors will be replaced by “someone with cultural and managerial abilities”. However, Ludovico Pratesi, the president of Amaci, an association that represents all the major museums of contemporary art in Italy, believes this is the wrong approach: “[An institution] needs a great artistic director as well as an able administrator—the two roles should not be conflated.”

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