Uffizi Gallery Director Thinks Religious Art Should Be Returned to Churches

Eike Schmidt says it's important for the artwork to be viewed in its original context

The Uffizi Gallery in Italy
The Uffizi Gallery recently reopened after almost three months.
Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / June 6, 2020 6:30 am

The director of one of the world’s most prominent art galleries would like to see religious art returned to its natural habitat: churches.

Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, has proposed that works of religious art be returned to their original places of worship, telling the Art Newspaper that “devotional art was not born as a work of art but for a religious purpose, usually in a religious setting.”

According to Schmidt, viewing religious works of art in their original context is important from both a historical standpoint as well as for connecting a viewer with the works’ deeper spiritual significance.

“If we did not believe that context was important, the Italian state would not have the legal concept of the art of architectural fixture, or practice contextual archaeology instead of an Indiana Jones-type scrabble for mere masterpieces,” Schmidt told the Newspaper.

Schmidt’s suggestion to return the works to their original places of worship is reportedly part of a larger plan for the gallery to increase distribution and make works available to more viewers.

While Mark Jones, formerly of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, agreed that “anyone who is interested in art knows that it is better in its own context,” the proposal has reportedly been met with some hesitation, with the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, saying that “every case would have to be considered on its own merits.”

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