Another issue addressed by Pratesi in his first year as Secretary General was whether or not antique dealers could be allowed to request issue of export licences before the start of the Fair and directly on site: a priority which was felt to be essential for opening the Biennial to the enormous international collectors’ market.
The illuminated Fine Arts Superintendent Antonio Paolucci understood this need. After pondered consideration, he accepted Pratesi’s thesis that advance examination of the works on display, so as to provide them with export licences before the start of the Fair, could offer a fundamental opportunity to the collector, who thanks to this act of normative transparency would be able to proceed with his work in the certainty that his purchases will not be blocked by any sort of legislative or territorial constraint emerging a posteriori. Biennale This exclusive service offered by the Biennale is a clear sign of mutual respect of a shared mission to promote and preserve works of art.
In point of fact, after the ‘Bottai Law’ of 1939, designed to put an end to centuries of uncontrolled flows of works of art from Italy to museums all over the world, very little had been done in this field, to the exception of the institution, in January of 1975, of the Ministry for Cultural Assets, at the insistence of Senator Giovanni Spadolini (the ministry that in 1998 became the Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities) and passage of the ‘Code for Cultural and Landscape Assets’ drafted by Minister of Culture Giuliano Urbani in January 2004.
The intelligence and perspicacity of an antiquarian and a superintendent thus combined to create a modus operandi that is unique to the Florentine Biennial; the practice, which has been consolidated and streamlined over the years, only reflects and reiterates the truly international cast of the exhibition.
Further elements attesting to the profitable relations that have been established between the institutions and the antiquarian world is the decision to confer the Presidency of the Comitato Scientifico to the Superintendent of the Polo Museale Fiorentino and to emplace a high-profile vetting process, conducted by authoritative art historians, to enforce the golden rules that have always regulated the antiques market: certainty of quality, origin, state of preservation and – above all – authenticity, the prime requisite on a market that looks only for excellence. These are all indisputable requirements for the operation of the mechanisms of natural selection among the exhibitors; rules that can ensure a priori that any art object presented at the exhibition is the ‘real thing.’ Finally, the Carabinieri’s Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage guarantees that origins of all the works are duly documented.