Paolo Baratta Officially Returns as Venice Biennale President

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Paolo Baratta

The fate of artistic director Marco Mueller is unclear.

ROME – Paolo Baratta, the president of the Venice Biennale for the last four years who in the last six weeks was told he was out of a job, then “likely” to be asked back, learned Thursday that he would officially retained as the head of the committee that oversees the Venice Film Festival.

But suddenly, the fate of Venice’s long-time artistic director, Marco Mueller, has become clouded.

Minister of Culture Lorenzo Ornaghi told parliament Thursday that he officially wished to retain the well-regarded Baratta in the high-profile Venice Biennale post. In that position, Baratta oversees not only the Venice Film Festival but also the city’s expositions on art. Dance, architecture, and other arts.

Thursday’s announcement, which was made after consultations with city and regional government officials in Venice, ends a dramatic period for Baratta, whose fate seemed to follow the swirling political drama south of Venice in Rome.

Baratta’s mandate was set to expire at the end of the year, and in October then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and then-Minister of Culture Giancarlo Galan said that Baratta would be replaced by businessman Giulio Malgara ,who was criticized as a Berlusconi consort.

But Berlusconi resigned Nov. 12, a victim of Europe’s growing debt crisis and personal and legal problems at home. And with it, went Galan as Minister of Culture and Malgara’s candidacy for the Venice Biennale job. In November, Ornaghi, who replaced Galan, said he would support Baratta’s candidacy and would consult with other officials before making the choice official. On Thursday, it became official.

Meanwhile, Mueller’s fate is less certain. Mueller, who has been at the film festival’s helm for the last eight years, supported Baratta as the Biennale president when it seemed his own continuing role was secure. Now, Italian newspapers are reporting that he might not come back to the world’s oldest film festival and that he could be replaced by Alberto Barbera, who already had a brief stint as Venice artistic director, from 1999 to 2001, and who is now director of Italy’s national film museum in Turin. It was not immediately clear why Mueller’s future as Venice’s artistic director has suddenly been cast in doubt.