After months of turmoil, Anna Coliva has been reinstated as director of Italy’s Galleria Borghese. Coliva was accused of ‘absenteeism’ concerning unauthorized gym visits in 2014 when the Italian Ministry of Culture subsequently suspended the director for six months with no pay. The suspension followed an anonymous tip – now thought to have come from a disgruntled warder who was disciplined after touting museum tickets – alleging that Coliva frequently left the office. The ministry implemented the suspension after recording that Coliva was in fact absent 41 hours over the course of 12-day period.
A press release recently given by Colvia’s representatives stated the reprimand was implemented prematurely and before Coliva could clear her name. Coliva has consistently upheld that the time spent at the gym was covered by overtime hours she accumulated through museum-related after-hours events. At the time of the accusations, Alessadro Diddi, Coliva’s lawyer, was reportedly ‘astonished’ that the case would even head to trial. The ministry’s decision also led to public outcry calling for the charges against Coliva to be dropped – the petition accrued nearly 2,000 signatures. Coliva has garnered favour as she has significantly boosted the museum’s endowment by over €12 million in her 12-year tenure.
Her suspension, though, was brief. In May 2018, an employment judge found the charges of absenteeism to be baseless. This was followed by a complete overhaul of the ministry when Italy’s populist coalition government was sworn in in June. A month after the decision was reached, the official statement regarding Coliva was released and reads as follows:
‘On November 12th, Anna Coliva was reinstated as Director of the Galleria Borghese in a formal settlement after the labor judge established last May that there were no grounds for the charges that had been made. MiBAC withdrew the suspension and the Director waived any claim for damages while reserving the right to initiate legal proceedings to clarify the individual liabilities that gave rise to this matter.
‘The case began with an anonymous complaint, which was not dismissed as it should have been, but was taken up by the offices of MiBAC. As a result, Coliva was accused of “absenteeism” and given the penalty of six months’ suspension without pay as established by the Ministry, without MiBAC performing any verification or waiting for a ruling, as should have been required—an “Erdogan-style” punishment and purge.
‘The indignation of the art world and international museums was enormous. At the beginning of May, more than 2,000 signatures were collected in less than a week on the change.org platform in support of the art historian, who for the past 12 years, has directed the Galleria Borghese, transforming it into one of the most important international museums recognized for its protection, conservation, enhancement, research and fundraising activities. One of the most successful artistic, cultural and economic results was the Caravaggio Research Institute, one of the most important research projects ever undertaken by an Italian museum and which has just concluded a major exhibition dedicated to Bernini, which led to new scientific discoveries and was recognized by critics and the press as the most beautiful exhibition of the year, with record revenues for the museum. The museum’s pioneering fundraising activities have raised over 12 million euros in the last 12 years.
‘However, Anna Coliva’s suspension was brief. In fact, the ruling of November 12th ends—after the appropriate verification – the dialogue and the negotiations reopened in June, when the new Government, the new Minister and MiBAC new executives took office.’
I am happy with this agreement,’ Coliva told Il Giornale dell’Arte. ‘I have worked with the ministry for 30 years. Now I can return to work without the anguish of the past months, even if some bitterness remains for everything that happened.’ She is, though, expected to start legal proceedings to clear up damage to her name.