Croff dropped as head of Venice Biennale

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ROME -- Davide Croff, longtime head of the Venice Biennale Foundation, will not continue in that capacity, Italy's Ministry of Culture said Thursday. A replacement is expected to be named next month.

Speculation about Croff's future started when Prime Minister Romano Prodi was elected last year.

The position traditionally has been considered a political appointment, and Croff had been appointed by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, Prodi's main political rival.

Opinion seemed to shift in recent months, with Croff telling The Hollywood Reporter in September that he felt the position was no longer political, while local media speculated that Croff would be kept on.

But indications from Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli -- who announced the change late Wednesday at a Biennale Foundation meeting -- are that Croff's regular clashes with local and regional politicians, such as Veneto regional president Giancarlo Galan and Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari, were too much.

While Rutelli praised Croff's work, particularly in terms of increasing the Biennale's private sector financing, he also said that "bad feelings between local institutions and the Biennale make a continued relationship impossible."

Galan, quoted in the local press, was more succinct: "Croff can consider his mandate concluded," he said.

It is not clear who will replace Croff atop the Biennale structure, which, in addition to cinema, includes sections on architecture, art, dance, music and theater. Among the candidates mentioned in the local press are former Biennale president Paolo Baratta; Davide Rampello, head of the Milan Triennale; and Giorgio Ferrara, director of the Paris-based Italian Culture Institute.

It also is unclear how the change will affect the future of Venice Film Festival artistic director Marco Mueller.

Croff and Mueller are reported to have had an uneven relationship, but Croff always was a strong public supporter of Mueller's mandate, which concludes at year's end. Croff is the only Biennale president Mueller worked with during his four-year tenure in Venice, and the two worked together to secure funding for the new Palazzo del Cinema project, expected to start in early 2008.
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