Saturday 22 January 2011

Italian Industry Leader Chips in to Sponsor Heritage Preservation

The global financial crisis is affecting the financing of heritage protection and monument upkeep all over the world. US antiquity collectors, ignoring to the parlous state and vandalism of monuments in their own country, have recently been kicking up a fuss about the state of ancient monuments in Italy and Greece, suggesting that they could look after the illegally exported portable heritage of those countries better than the state administration of those countries. Under the guise of selfless concern for the common heritage they of course merely want to selfishly garner armfuls of it into their own private possession.

A somewhat more publicly spirited form of private sponsorship is a more helpful approach. In Italy it has just been announced that Tod’s, the luxury leatherware manufacturers has pledged $34 million toward the restoration of the Colosseum. The money will go on the cleaning and reinforcing the exterior of the monument, its circular galleries and some underground spaces currently off-limits to the public. Work will be monitored by the Culture Ministry and will begin by the end of the year and is expected to last between two and three years.
Speaking at a news conference inside the Colosseum, Diego Della Valle, the founder of Tod’s, said he was pleased to be able to give something back to his country and pledged that he would not exploit the sponsorship for commercial purposes. “I hope other businessmen will follow suit,” he said.
I really see no reason why he should not be able to (discretely) use this sponsorship to promote his business, this is common practice in my country, a firm sponsors the restoration of an historic building in the town centre and (apart from the tax benefits), the awnings covering the building (put up to protect the workmen from the rain and passers by from the dust and dirt caused by the stone cleaning) are used to support a huge and highly effective advert for the firm for the duration of the work.

On reading this I was reminded of another Italian businessman from a related branch of industry who has thrown in his lot with the ACCG and been vociferous on the US political scene about the measures intended to curb the trade in cultural property illegally exported from Italy. The boss of Ermanno Winsemann Falghera s.r.l. cannot answer my question of whether he applies the approach he recommends adopting for dugup coins to his own dealings in the textile market . Maybe he could do his bit and at least show he nevertheless cares about Italy's cultural heritage by following the lead set by Diego Della Valle and sponsoring some major work on some monuments (like some of those of Milan where they are based)? Or perhaps they already do?

Vignette: Tod's doing its part to preserve the cultural charms of Italy, while other local firms just give Italian cultural preservation the finger.

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