Egyptian Museum

Row over Egyptian Museum director fuels debate over culture

Culture News

Deputy Premier Minister Matteo Salvini’s League party is demanding the resignation of Christian Greco, Egyptian Museum director. His ‘crime’ giving a discount in the past to Muslim visitors.

League Deputy Secretary Andrea Crippa said Greco, the director of Turin’s Egyptian Museum, should “perform an act of dignity and resign”. He argued Greco was guilty of being “racist towards Italians and Christians”.

“We’ll do everything to have him kicked out and we ask Culture Minister (Gennaro) Sangiuliano to sack him if he doesn’t resign,” Crippa told Affaritaliani.it. “He is a left-wing director who has run the Egyptian Museum in Turin in an ideological and racist manner against Italians and Christian citizens.” He said the case of the discount, which dates back some time, led to a legal battle that culminated with him being cleared after Greco reported him for asking people to protest against it.

Several opposition politicians came to Greco’s defence.

Daniela Ruffino of the centrist Azione party said that, according to Crippa’s logic, he should also ask for Sangiuliano’s resignation over the decision to exempt Rome residents from paying an entry fee to the Pantheon, thus discriminating against other Italians.

“Seeking to use Christian Greco, an Egyptologist of universal fame and esteem, to conduct a religious war against Islam says a lot about how low political combat can go,” Ruffino said.

In interviews with several newspapers on Thursday, Greco defended his record and said Italian politicians, unlike their peers abroad, tried to meddle with technical decisions concerning how museums are run and how their heads are selected.

Christian Greco has run the Egyptian Museum in Turin since 2014. Under his leadership there has been a marked increase in ticket sales. More than 900,000 people have visited the site in 2022, up 6.3% from pre-pandemic levels.

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However, Greco came under fire from right-wing parties in 2018 when he launched a promotion offering price reductions for Arabic speakers in recognition of the fact that the museum’s collection came from Egypt – the largest Arab nation.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) party and its ally the League said the price cut discriminated against Italians. Since coming to power last year, they started the attack again.

In interviews with several newspapers on Thursday, Greco defended his record. He also stated that Italian politicians, unlike their peers abroad, tried to meddle with technical decisions concerning how museums are run and how their heads are selected. “In seven years working abroad … I never met a politician,” he told daily La Stampa. This may have been in reference to his time in the Netherlands.

Meloni’s coalition is pushing a nationalist agenda. Whilst Greco is an Italian citizen, previous centre-left governments appointed high-profile foreigners to run a few of the country’s most famous sites. These include Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, Pompeii and Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera.

Vittorio Sgarbi, the undersecretary of culture, said last month that some top arts jobs should only go to Italians. The government has introduced new criteria for the selection process, including more demanding language requirements.

Greco said he was confident there would be transparency around future appointments, but said Italian politicians needed to stop interfering. “In Italy, political interference is excessive, it ruins certain equilibriums and is a problem that has always existed,” he told La Stampa.

It only needs to be seen how badly some cultural establishments have been run in the past under Italians to know that running them should be based on knowledge of the subject matter, rather than the Italian language.

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