‘Art and the New Economy’ – Italian Museum burns 2nd artwork to protest austerity measures and cuts to arts and culture – more sacrifices threatened

“This is War!” proclaims Antonio Manfredi director of the CAM Museum, pictured above, in a photograph by Reuters, next to the first work torched – a painting by French artist Séverine Bourguignon.

On Monday he burned a second work, a painting by German artist Astrid Stofhas. He insists – not unlike garden-variety desperate hostage-takers – that he will burn more art each week to protest the lack of funding befalling art and culture, in Italy – and his museum, in the mafia-plagued outskirts of Naples.

The artists, whose works were destroyed, have consented to the museum director’s controversial curatorial stance, you can read a sympathetic piece written by Ms. Bourguignon in the Guardian here – it’s titled:: “I hope the burning of my painting will prevent more arts cuts.” The museum director set up a live webcam link with Ms. Stofhas while he burned her 2009 painting “Soccer,” you can see a shocking video of that here.

Mr. Manfredi, an artist himself, says that his museum receives no public funding and that the little private support he received has dwindled due to the economic crisis wreaking havoc on Italy’s economy … and especially the arts and culture. He acknowledges that a recent show at the CAM on the Camorra – the mafia clan running much of  Naples … (and how much of Italy?) – was the straw that broke the artist’s back … that’s when the local private funding started drying up … and while he laughs while telling this story, he does not laugh-off the threats he’s received. He has plans to continue the unorthodox public “displays” in the coming days and weeks unless his Casoria Contemporary Arts Museum gets some financial relief from local, national or European authorities. He says that there are over 1000 works in the museum collection and so the public immolations could go on for years.

Some have called his bonfires a crude stunt – and suggest that he might sell the works instead, to resolve the museum’s money troubles. Mr. Manfredi has engaged in controversial stunts in the past as well, once replacing the works in the museum with photocopies, and also offering to have patrons “adopt” artworks for their home or business for 1 and 2 euros a day. We believe that the official request Mr. Manfredi filed with Angela Merkel’s Chancellery in Berlin, seeking asylum for the museum’s works and entire staff, still stands. (You can see a DW video outlining Manfredi’s request here.) We’re sure that German bureaucracy is much less bureaucratic than Italy’s … we still hope that Chancellor Merkle might speed up the paperwork still, given the museum’s current rate of hemorrhaging of artworks.

We wonder if posting about this here is adding fuel to Mr Manfredi’s burning passion for his art… oops, sorry, bad pun. How about this: is our discussing this here, like paying too much attention to a crying 5-year old or will this controversial protest get the European parliament’s Culture Commission, the Ministro della Cultura in Rome or the Regional governor in Naples to change their stated position from … not responding at all to Mr. Manfredi’s previous pleas for help, to acknowledging the seriousness of the impact of the crisis on small – and large – art institutions, and taking the necessary steps to help them survive?

We invite you to share your thoughts on this bit of art history, as it’s unfolding.

Is Mr. Manfredi creatively – if somewhat unconventionally – doing what he has to do, to save his museum, or is this the twisted ploy of an inveterate publicity-seeker? Write your thoughts in the comments section, below the post (you have to click on the title of this post in order to get the page with the comments section… and you can always write directly to us at info@artislimited.com, and we’ll post your comments.

We print the museum address – in case you feel strongly about this issue and want to … do … say … something about it right away … before another work of art meets its untimely demise.
You can email the museum at casoriacontemporaryartmuseum@hotmail.com or send your checks – made out to “Casoria Contemporary Arts Museum” – to the museum, here:
Via Duca D’Aosta 63/A
80026 Casoria/Napoli/Italia

2 thoughts on “‘Art and the New Economy’ – Italian Museum burns 2nd artwork to protest austerity measures and cuts to arts and culture – more sacrifices threatened

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