ROME (AP) — Italy’s Uffizi Galleries and Hong Kong cultural authorities agreed on Thursday to partner over the next five years on art exhibitions in the Asian city.
The first show, to run from September 2020 until January 2021 at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, will star paintings by Sandro Botticelli, one of the Italian Renaissance’s greats.
It was not announced which paintings will be shown in Hong Kong. But two of Botticelli masterpieces among the Uffizi’s signature pieces, the late 15th century works “Spring” and “Birth of Venus,” won’t be going abroad. They are among the paintings not allowed to travel due to their renown as integral to the galleries’ identity.
Uffizi director Eike Schmidt, a German and a Renaissance expert, has stressed innovation and cultural openness since becoming the first foreigner to lead the Uffizi in 2015.
One work from Botticelli’s early years, “Madonna della Loggia,” recently went on exhibition in Russia’s St. Petersburg and Vladivostok.
Such exhibitions “respond fully to the intention to bring our culture even to the most distant regions,’’ Schmidt said in a written statement to The Associated Press.
Not all Italians have taken such a global view of art.
Lending great works to museums abroad was a volatile political issue during Italy’s previous government, which included the nationalist right-wing League party. Last year a League politician who was a culture ministry official protested about several works by Leonardo da Vinci being loaned by Italian museums to the Louvre in France.
The current culture minister, Dario Franceschini, during a previous stint in the post overcame widespread domestic reluctance over allowing foreigners to lead Italy’s top state museums.
Franceschini argued that cultural experience and talent transcend national borders.
The memo of understanding with Hong Kong also calls for the development of professional exchange programs. “Sharing the museum’s expertise with the world is central to our mission,’’ Schmidt said.