The Atlantic reports that an Italian museum director is burning art to protest the museum's lack of funding. Phil thinks it's melodramatic. I am withholding judgment.
In despair, Manfredi decided to try to call attention to the peril facing Italian culture by turning his own collection into a flock of “sacrificial lambs.” He took pictures of the museum’s collection and sent photocopies—a brick 1,000 pages high—to Italy’s culture minister and to the president of the Campania region, around Naples. The package was a ransom note. If he didn’t receive assistance, he warned, he would set the pieces on fire, one by one. “It’s simple,” he told me. “If nobody cares about the art that’s inside the museum, then I’ll burn it.” In February, he started the burning with one of his own creations: a series of five life-size, full-body posters of Mafia fugitives, which had been displayed in the Italian pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennale.
Stöfhas’s painting is the fifth work Manfredi has put to the torch, and the fourth in less than a week. Inside the museum hang the remains of a painting of a flower by the French artist Séverine Bourguignon: blackened crossbars, with fringes of canvas peeling back from the edge of the frame like flesh around a wound. Another work, a wood sculpture by an Italian artist named Rosaria Matarese, now consists of two chunks of carbonized wood, one impaled by a large blackened nail. Of the others, only ashes are left.
Before destroying a piece, Manfredi gets permission from the artist. Stöfhas is watching her painting burn via Skype from Germany; her face is visible on the screen of a laptop held aloft by one of the museum’s volunteers.
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In the age of YouTube and Twitter, Manfredi’s protest has resonated across Europe. Artists in the U.K., Germany, Hungary, and northern Italy are burning their works and sending him videos in solidarity. “Maybe this was the spark,” Manfredi says. “Remember, revolutions need fire, like what happened in Tunisia. That fruit vendor set himself on fire, and then everything exploded.”