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jul 18 2012

Should Celebrities Be Able to See Museums Privately?

Uffizi Gallery (Courtesy evanblaser/Flickr)

Madonna recently caused a stir—surprise, surprise—when she paid Florence's Uffizi Gallery a private visit after hours with her boyfriend, her son, and a 15-person entourage.

After closing hours, Madonna paid an undisclosed sum to be led around the best collections of Renaissance painting in the world, says London's Sunday Times.

Uffizi museum chief Cristina Acidini told reporters that Madonna was keen on Botticelli's Birth of Venus, spending a few minutes in front of it.

Italy has a long tradition of letting high-paying travelers have access to its cultural treasures in seclusion. Case in point: The Sistine Chapel, part of the Vatican Museums in Vatican City, gives after-hours private access via companies like Italy With Us for prices of about $350 a person.

Madonna's visit contrasted sharply in style with actor Pierce Brosnan's afternoon tour last Wednesday around Paris's Musée D'Orsay. The former James Bond walked by himself among the crowd, taking a break from filming a new movie with Emma Thompson. No entourage, no fuss, and paying as an ordinary visitor.

Should there be a limit to how museums can open up national cultural treasures for private tours to the highest bidder? Or are celebrity tours a smart way for museums to gain new revenue without having to rely on taxpayer funds?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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