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Uffizi director Eike Schmidt hits out at mayor of Florence—fuelling rumours of his own political ambitions

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Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, has attacked plans to deploy security guards at shopping centres in the city, accusing its mayor of favouring shopkeepers over museums. The decision comes after Schmidt’s calls for guards at the Uffizi were rejected. The comments have fuelled speculation that Schmidt is preparing to stand in mayoral elections in Florence next year, representing Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s ruling Brothers of Italy party.

Dario Nardella, the left-wing mayor of Florence, announced on Thursday that the city council would provide €400,000 for security guards who will patrol shopping centres, as part of a pilot scheme that will last six months. In response, Schmidt said in a statement: “My compliments to Mayor Nardella: after a fierce diatribe two months ago against the deployment of armed anti-vandal guards at the Uffizi… he has finally come to his senses. Welcome to reality, mayor!”.

Schmidt also complained that the city was protecting shops but not museums. In August, Nardella dismissed Schmidt’s proposal to deploy armed guards under the Vasari Corridor, part of the Uffizi Galleries, after two German vandals defaced the structure’s external columns. At the time, the mayor said the measure would be “inadequate” and that round-the-clock remote surveillance would be more effective. Schmidt said last week that the Uffizi would hire armed guards in the coming days who would patrol the corridor “day and night”.

Italian media has portrayed the stand off as a prelude to a potential electoral campaign as rumours have swirled of Schmidt’s own political ambitions. Senior figures within Meloni’s party have refused to rule out that Schmidt, who was born in Germany but is due to be given Italian citizenship on 28 November, may stand as their mayoral candidate in Florence next year. Schmidt said in an interview with local newspaper Corriere Fiorentino in September that he would “neither confirm nor deny” his interest in the position. During the interview, the director also laid out his vision for Florence— arguing that the city had become “dirtier and less safe” under Nardella’s watch—and attacked the city-run Museo Novecento, suggesting that its curatorial decisions were poor and its director overpaid.

In response, 67 people, including artists, art historians and art collectors, signed a letter in September urging Schmidt to step down from his role at the museum before “launching an election campaign”. Last week, Nardella sarcastically dubbed Schmidt a “right-wing candidate” in the “Uffizi Galleries election committee”—an apparent reference to the perceived politicisation of the museum.

However, Schmidt may well be more interested in managing another Italian museum than segueing into politics: while his second tenure at the Uffizi will end this year, he is one of 10 candidates for the top job at the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples. A culture ministry-appointed selection committee is due to announce the names of the new directors of ten state-run museums, including the Uffizi, Capodimonte and the Pinacoteca di Brera, in the coming days.

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