The Casoria Contemporary Art Museum began burning works of art in protest of budget cuts that it said were bankrupting cultural institutions, according to the BBC.
Antonio Manfredi, the director of CAM in Naples, set fire to the first painting on Tuesday. He said, "Our 1,000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the government's indifference."
According to the BBC, the first painting was by French artist Severine Bourguignon, who supported the protest and watched the burning online. The Guardian said the painting was worth 10,000 euros ($13,122).
Manfredi has dubbed the protest "Art War" and plans to burn three paintings a week.
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The Guardian noted that the museum is in the midst of mafia country and lacks funds. Manfredi told the Guardian, "There's no money for upkeep. We were flooded recently. And there are tons of garbage mounting up outside."
Manfredi said, "This is a war. This is a revolution. And in a revolution, there are winners and losers." He noted that there were 1,000 works in the museum and said "this could go on for years."
Bourguignon, who watched the destruction of her painting, said, "I feel as if I am in mourning." She added, "I hope it'll be worthwhile," according to the Guardian.
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The BBC noted that Italy's art institutions have been especially hard hit by the economic crisis, with the one of the leading galleries, the Maxxi, having its funding slashed by 43 percent.
Last year, Manfredi said he had written to German Chancellor Angela Merkel seeking asylum because he was tired of mafia threats and the Italian government's failure to protect its art, according to the AFP. The museum has daringly hosted exhibitions against the Camorra mafia group and therefore faced intimidation.
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