Italian museum starts burning artworks in anti-cuts protest

Posted at 04/18/2012 5:51 PM | Updated as of 04/18/2012 5:53 PM

CASORIA, Italy - An Italian museum on Tuesday began burning its collection of contemporary artworks in a singular protest against harsh budget cuts that have left many cultural institutions out of pocket.

The Casoria Contemporary Art Museum near Naples held a bonfire in its grounds for the first torching of a painting by French artist Severine Bourguignon, who was in favour of the protest and followed it on Skype.

Museum director Antonio Manfredi said: "Our 1,000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the indifference of the government."

He plans to burn three art works a week in an initiative dubbed "Art War."

Manfredi last year announced he had written a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking for asylum, saying he was fed up with mafia threats and the government's failure to protect Italy's rich cultural heritage.

He said he would take his entire museum with him if the asylum was granted.

Manfredi never received a reply from German authorities but the famous Tacheles squat in Berlin offered "artistic asylum" to the museum and hosted an exhibition in May 2011 of some of the museum's works against the mafia.

"If a government allows Pompeii to fall then what hope does my museum have," Manfredi told AFP at the time, following a number of incidents at the world-famous ancient Roman city buried by a volcanic explosion in 79 AD.

The museum has become known for daring exhibitions against the power of the Naples-based Camorra organised crime group and has suffered intimidation.

In a sign of the times, the culture ministry last week said it was launching an emergency procedure to put the Maxxi museum of contemporary art in Rome under external administration because of the institution's ballooning debts.

Maxxi said its funding had been cut 43% last year compared to 2010.

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