Vatican Museums Introduces Crowdfunding App for Restoration Projects

Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo.  COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo.


The Vatican Museums have released a crowdfunding app called Patrum, with the intention of raising money for a series of upcoming restoration projects that include the restitching of an 18th-century French tapestry and the conservation of 13th- and 14th-century Chinese calligraphy scrolls.

This news comes from the dependably irritable critic Jonathan Jones, who notes in a piece in The Guardian, right after name-dropping Michael Corleone, “[The Catholic Church] has a genius for getting money for art from the great and the good, not to mention the bad.”

The app is advertised as free to download, though an article in the Catholic Herald states, “[After] downloading the app, users are required to give a minimum donation of $10.” “Silver Patrons” refer to those who merely contribute to a restoration, whereas the “Gold Patrons” refer to those who have individually funded the entirety of a single restoration. Instead of VIP entry into heaven, Gold Patrons will be able to connect with the museum’s office curators via a direct-messaging service.

Users will receive updates on the status of the conservation projects three times a week, and the app also grants them access to a digital archive of the Vatican’s collection. On Patrum’s benefits, the head of digital initiatives at the museum’s patrons office, Juliana Biondo, said in a statement, “[The app provides] instant chat technology, crowdsource fundraising, and online community building. We want to create a platform in which, for example, a patron from Ohio could speak with one from Monte Carlo about a work of art they both like, a shared experience in Rome, or a great art event they recently went to.”

Jones, unsurprisingly, is not fond of this whole idea. He argues:

“I’m sorry, but restoration is a dangerous obsession that needs restraining. Most restoration projects are pompous acts of self-promotion that cover museums in scaffolding and close galleries for no good purpose. (Come and see the new improved David! Roll up for the latest version of The Last Supper!) Don’t give the Vatican money to spoil its heritage.”

“Dust,” he concludes, “is beautiful.”

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