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The Ponte Vecchio is a classic symbol of Florence

Recent Florence light festival caused controversy with AMEX logo projection

Recent Florence light festival caused controversy with AMEX logo projection

Another, though more subtle, example of heritage desecration

A heated public debate has erupted following the projection of American Express and other corporate sponsors’ logos on the facades of the Ponte Vecchio bridge and the Institute of the Innocents in Florence. This happened during the recent F-Light 2021 light festival taking place on 8 and 9 January.

The opinion of the general public was that these acts in essence commercialized the social and artistic side of the event and cheapened the experience and the architectural heritage of the Tuscan city.

Seeking a balance between public and private interests

As we have recently seen with the case of Scala dei Turchi, Italians can be quite touchy when it comes to messing with their heritage treasures. That also reflects national and socio-cultural pride which seeks a sense of purism from corporate intrusion.

Interestingly enough, that goes even for the football sphere. Whereas, it has become more and more common to see the renaming of other famous European stadiums to reflect their corporate sponsorship, Italians have been loath to take such a step preferring to honour real persons’ legacies. Recent case is the renaming of the Naples’ San Paolo to Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

The public discontent in Florence got so loud that even the city’s mayor Dario Nardella had to comment on it, given that his administration also became target of the critics.

We will defend ourselves from any complaints with great serenity because we have a clear conscience and because Florence in recent years has grown culturally like never before.

An image with the sponsor's logo, which I consider wrong because it is not suitable for those places, cannot become the pretext for attacking the reputation of a city and of those who manage it with such aggression,” wrote the mayor on his Facebook page.

He explained that action had been taken for such missteps to not occur again in future editions of the light festival, however, he also reminded that the role of private sponsorship in culture cannot be ignored.

He promised that sponsorship advertising will continue but through more traditional media and not as part of the audiovisual creations.

Mr Nardella tried to keep a careful balance between social and corporate interests in ensuring that there is a spirit of collaboration rather than hostility.

Shocked and horrified,” is how the director of the Uffizi Gallery, Eike Schmidt, described his reaction to the news, as quoted by La Nazione. “The advertising projected on Ponte Vecchio also included a part of the Vasari Corridor. We have never been asked for any authorization, as it is prescribed by law. We would never have approved such contempt of our heritage”.

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