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A museum in Naples, Italy has been setting part of its art collection on fire in protest over budget cuts as art imitates life.

The first painting was set alight on Tuesday (17th) as administered by Antonio Malfredi, the director of the Casoria Contemporary museum in Naples. “Our art works are headed for destruction anyway because of the government’s indifference.” (so let’s get in there first)

The scorched painting was by French artist Severine Bourguignon who watched the protest online with a nod of approval. Manfredi is going to target three paintings a week from now on in a protest he called “ART WAR”.

Artists across Europe have joined the spark of resistance by setting their own works on fire, including Welsh sculptor John Brown who cremated his piece “Manifesto”. Mr Brown had exhibited at the Casoria in the past. He said the loss of his art work was not particularly upsetting. “The burning is a symbolic act to protest against the way the economic crisis is being dealt with, these cuts reach beyond the confines of the visual arts and affect the cohesive well-being of millions of people all over the world."

In the past year the Italian government has passed a vigorous package of austerity measures and other reforms. The austerity measures breakdown into €12-13bn of cuts (in addition to pensions, the guillotine mainly fell on local authorities) and €17-18bn of tax increases.  (Alas once again the focus was on cuts and taxes and never on boosting growth and restructuring failing systems). Art institutions have been effected along with everyone else, especially as state subsidies and charity donations are vanishing. The Maxxi Museum of Contemporary Art, one of Italy’s leading galleries, had its funding slashed by 43% in 2011.

Mr Manfredi is known as a bit of a bad boy within art circles because of his outspoken and radical methods. Several of his exhibitions have annoyed the local mafia. In 2009 he put on an exhibition that dealt with the issue of prostitution, particularly the side that is occupied mainly by exploiting African immigrants and controlled by organised criminals. A lifesize effigy of an African figure was left impaled over the museum gates following the exhibition. Last year he claimed he had asked the German Chancellor Angela Merkel for asylum as he was fed up with the Italian government’s failure to protect its country’s cultural heritage. He offered to take the entire museum with him if he was granted asylum but never received a reply.

Manfredi has said his pyro tendencies will continue until the funding debacle gets sorted. A statement from the museum described the first burning as "political, necessary, and compelling in the face of these adverse circumstances".

This single issue campaign is low priority and slightly ludicrous in the scheme of things when one considers the housing crisis, food shortages, education and healthcare problems amongst a few current issues. Besides the fact that art has in many forms always been for the rich, an insular and highly over priced pastime that only the elite could afford. However this does not stop it from reflecting the times as austerity cuts bite into all sectors of society.

There is 1 comment on this story...
Added By: John - 26th April 2012 @ 11:47 PM
Art exists in many forms from that purchased by the rich like Opera to the writing, poetry, painting or photography of the person next door, of your own family, perhaps even you. Censoring art is to censor ideas.
It is an essential component of the human spirit from sunsets to storms, from emotive words to ideas.
It is the expression and challenge of society.
The demonstration mimics life. Brilliant, it may not change much but it will make some people think. That is one thing that art is about.
You have missed the point.
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