Silvio Berlusconi

Venice Biennale head ousted by Marco Secchi

Motto of the the Biennale di Venezia 1997.

If the Venice Biennale art exhibition now runs like a normal international event, with adequate toilets, refreshment points, marketing, press facilities and ticketing, and also manages to cover nearly 80% of its costs, it is almost entirely due to former banker Paolo Baratta, 72, chairman of the Biennale Foundation from 1998 to 2000, and from 2007 to last week.

Yesterday Baratta heard that his mandate would not be renewed and his successor would be a foodstuffs importer, Giulio Malgara, 73

I strongly believe it is the wrong choice...possibly the worst choice to be correct.

This appointment, which is reminiscent of the years before 1998 when the post was a prize allocated on the basis of party politics, was greeted with indignation by the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, who immediately put out a statement saying: “I am convinced that Giulio Malgara is an unsuitable person to carry out the role of chairman of the Venice Biennale and that it would be a mistake to confirm him in this position. It would interrupt a vital and fruitful process that needs to be seen through to the end.” Former mayor Massimo Cacciari said: “As long as cultural appointments in this rotten system are in the hands of the political lobbies, it will go on being like this.”

The Guardian alredy commente: "Back to Earth, or Venice, with a bump. Silvio Berlusconi is trying to replace Paolo Baratta, head of the Venice Biennale, with his friend Giulio Malgara, a 73-year-old businessman whose greatest cultural achievement to date is bringing Gatorade to Italy."

Divided Italy celebrates 150 years of unity by Marco Secchi

VENICE, ITALY - MARCH 16: A man hangs an Italian National Flags outside his window ahead of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification on March 16, 2011 in Venice, Italy. March 17th has been declared National Festivity and events to celebrate the 150th anniversary will run in several Italian cities until the end of the year. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images) (Marco Secchi)

Italy celebrated yesterday (17 March) the 150th anniversary of its unification. But the country has never been so divided, with separatist forces gaining ground in the north and south alike. Anniversary celebrations took place all over Italy. The government decided to call a national holiday to mark the special occasion.

Separatist movements are gaining ground and the government itself is dominated by a party (Lega Nord) which began its political life by explicitly calling for the secession of the wealthier north from the rest of the country.

Lega Nord's anti-national stance was blatantly confirmed during yesterday's celebrations. In addition to four ministers, just one of the right-wing party's 85 MPs was present at a solemn ceremony in the packed Italian Parliament in Rome.

A gallery of pictures is here