Cultural institutions in Italy receive ordinary annual support from the Government. Such grants (lasting at least three years) are governed by Law no. 534 of 1996. This law represents a major break from the previous law (dating from 1980), in that it has introduced parameters to determine eligibility for and the amount of contributions - parameters that constitute performance indicators of the cultural institutions. The present study offers preliminary results from an analysis of the five grants made between 1980 and 1996 and the only grant made after 1996. The aim is to define - indirectly - the role these performance indicators play in the award of grants. What the preliminary results reveal is that the 1997 grant award marked a reversal in previous trends on several fronts. Even if it is not yet possible to establish whether these changes are due specifically to implementation of the performance indicators set forth in the new law, the fact remains that important shifts in Government cultural policy did take place between 1993 and 1997.