Lisa Marie Browne has served as the executive director of the Friends of the Uffizi Gallery since the nonprofit was created in Palm Beach in 2006. Working closely with Amici degli Uffizi, the sister and founding organization that is based in Florence, Italy, she has raised millions of dollars to restore over 30 priceless art works and to make structural improvements to the Uffizi Gallery, which was designed by Giorgio Vasari and constructed through funding from the Medici family in the sixteenth century. The Uffizi Gallery holds the world’s most prestigious collection of Italian Renaissance art, as well as classical, modern and contemporary works. In 2013, it was named the best gallery in the world by The Times of London.
Have you always loved art? What were your first experiences with Italian Renaissance art?
I was exposed to museums by my parents. Art was always present in my life. We often visited museums and galleries. It’s funny because I remember that my dad liked to visit the galleries in museums that held weapons, metal and armor and my mother loved china and costumes. My brother, though, loved painting and I’m a fan of sculpture.
Although three of my four grandparents were born in America, the entire family carried on with Italian traditions. I have a collection of nativities that include my grandparents and parents nativities. And images of Renaissance art surrounded me my entire life. I was 19 the first time I visited Florence with my mother and she recalls me telling her that I felt like I belonged there.
How did you get involved with Friends of the Uffizi Gallery?
The FoUG was established in Palm Beach in 2006 and my friend Simon Benson Offit introduced me to the organizers. I went to Florence to meet with Contessa Maria Vittoria Colonna Rimbotti, our current president, and others that had helped form the Amici degli Uffizi in Italy and knew from the start the position would be a perfect fit for me.
What do you love the most about your position and about the organization?
I’m inspired by the changes I’ve seen at the Uffizi Gallery and how our organizations – Friends of the Uffizi Gallery and Amici degli Uffizi – have been able to fund the restorations of such major works. I feel like I’m putting my fingerprint on history with restorations like the Wild Boar sculpture, which is a symbol for the City of Florence, Filippo Lippi’s “Adoration of the Child,” also known as the “Camaldoli Alterpiece,” or the recent opening of the new Michelangelo Room. It was also very rewarding for me personally when we brought the “Offering of the Angels” exhibit to the United States in 2011 because that was the realization of a dream and had taken four years to plan.
What are your favorite works at the Uffizi Gallery?
Sculpture is what moves me the most, so The Laocoön Group is a favorite, as well as the statue of Ariadne in the new Michelangelo Room.
Tell us about your family’s restoration?
My mother, Sonya Conte, gifted the restoration of Asclepius to honor my role with the organization. The restoration was completed in 2013. In Greek mythology, Asclepius is the god of medicine and we chose the statue because my brother is a physician.