Conflict & Justice

Italian Museum Burns Art in Protest to Save Art

Our Geo Quiz takes us to southern Italy.

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

The city we're looking for on Monday is a stone's throw (or maybe an olive pit) from Naples.

It's located in the Italian region of Campania. Mt. Vesuvius is not too far to the south.

To the west lies the Tyrhennian Sea.

The coastline and the volcano attract plenty of tourists to the region.

But we're looking for something a little more cultural – a contemporary art museum in this city we're asking about.

The museum's art director says his institution is struggling to make ends meet. He wants to highlight what it considers government indifference to the museum's financial woes.

So he's begun burning the museum's art collection, one piece at a time.

So where is this fiery protest going on?

The answer involves the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum. It's located in Casoria, Italy, the answer to our quiz.

The museum has embarked on a controversial campaign to protest budget cuts to the arts.

Antonio Manfredi is an artist and art director of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum.

Manfredi says his contemporary art museum has pleaded for the past seven years with local officials and patrons to provide support. But so far, no luck. So Manfredi came up with what seems like a desperate plan.

"The government cuts the money for institutions, for cultural institution, okay, so we'll start burning art from the museum."

He's totally serious. Last month, he started burning paintings and other works to get some attention. He's basically holding the art work hostage.

"We destroyed six paintings, some photos, and one wood sculpture, so this is not a joke."

Manfredi says a similar fate awaits the rest of the museum's collection if government funding doesn't materialize. He says he'll burn three paintings a week.

"If the political institutions don't think the art and the culture is important for the country, the artist can destroy this art, no problem."

John Brown is all for it. He's an artist and art director in Wales. He contributed one of his own pieces made out of paper to burn in symbolic protest.

"In fact I was working on a piece called "Manifesto" which was actually underlying a political statement on our (Welsh) government which makes manifestos that people vote for and when they get into power they scrap the manifestos. So I made a sculpture, an empty manifesto basically, because it was something that would attract a lot of attention and it actually has."

Brown says a video of the burning has generated thousands of hits, and mostly supportive comments.

"There is a case to me made that art is important to the human experience and that's what I believe."

As for those who say the protest is destroying the very art the museum is trying to save, Brown brushes that off.

He says art doesn't have to exist in a physical form – it can live on in your mind. Manfredi's not backing down.

"Next we will destroy a marble, abstract, carved sculpture."

It's not clear how long Manfredi will keep up the campaign. But Italy's economy is in serious trouble and more funding for the arts doesn't seem to be in the cards right now.