What is it with defacing or destroying cultural sites and artworks recently?
Following the defacing of the Colosseum in Rome by a British tourist and reports that a Canadian teen has been accused of carving into a UNESCO-recognised Japanese temple, a seminal artwork by one of Italy’s most famous living artists was set on fire and destroyed last week.
By the time flames were doused, all that was left of the installation by Michelangelo Pistoletto outside Naples’ City Hall was a charred frame.
A homeless man has now been arrested in connection with the suspected arson attack. The 32-year-old was identified by authorities using video footage of the incident.
Pistoletto’s artwork, titled “Venus of the Rags”, had been displayed in Naples since 28 June. It featured a large plaster neoclassical nude Venus, inspired by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s 19th century “Venus with Apple,” picking through a mountain of rags.
Pistoletto made several versions of “Venus of the Rags.” The first, in 1967, had a concrete or cement Venus purchased at a garden centre covered with mica to create a glittery surface. Others used plaster casts of the statue, and one was made out of Greek marble containing mica, according to the Tate Gallery, which owns one of the pieces.
Pistoletto told the Corriere della Sera daily newspaper that the reasons for the attack could be many.
“It is a work that calls for regeneration, on the necessity to find a balance and harmony between two minds that are represented on the one hand by beauty, and on the other by consummate consumerism, a disaster,’’ the 90-year-old artist said.
He added: “The world is going up in flames anyway. The same spirits that are waging war are the ones that set the Venus on fire."