The Lega party—which may soon be in power—believes that Italy, through its culture, can lead the world
Italy’s far-right Lega party, which won almost 18% of the vote in the general election on 4 March and could form part of the next coalition government, wants to turn a former Fascist party headquarters in Como, in the Lombardy region, into northern Italy’s biggest museum of Modern art, architecture and design. The surprising pledge appears in the anti-immigration, Eurosceptic manifesto of Lega’s leader, Matteo Salvini, who has transformed the former northern separatists into Italy’s leading right-wing party.
Culture was largely sidelined in an election campaign dominated by the European migration crisis. Yet Lega’s manifesto, entitled Salvini Premier, devotes three pages to a section called “cultural heritage and Italian identity”, which champions culture as “the strategic asset of our country” and “the industry that can guarantee us primacy compared with the rest of the world”.
Among its proposals are a centralised marketing department to drive cultural tourism in tandem with regional authorities and the 30 major state museums, which, in 2015 and 2016, gained autonomy under the ousted centre-left Democratic party government. (The reforming culture minister, Dario Franceschini, lost his parliamentary seat in the election.)
Blasting Italian museums as disorganised and digitally challenged, Lega suggests consolidating non-state institutions and decentralising the national network. It is also seeking to boost the art trade by lowering VAT on art purchases and relaxing “excessive public control” over antiquities markets.
The last, and most eye-catching, of the party’s “medium-term” cultural initiatives is: “The creation of the largest museum of Modern art, architecture and design in northern Italy, in Palazzo Terragni and the adjacent buildings.” The classically inspired cuboid structure, designed by the leading rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni, was commissioned by Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party in 1932 and completed in 1936 as a Casa del Fascio, one of around 5,000 local Fascist headquarters constructed across Italy.