CNN — An outdoor installation of the “Venus of the Rags” artwork by Italian contemporary artist Michelangelo Pistoletto has been destroyed in a suspected arson attack in the center of Naples, authorities said Wednesday.
A police investigation is underway to ascertain the cause of the fire, which broke out at dawn, the local government said in a press release. Once the flames were tamed by firefighters, the area was cordoned off.
Naples Mayor Gaetano Manfredi expressed “dismay for an act of great violence, which leaves us speechless,” adding that the “vandalism will not stop art” and that the art installation will be redone.
“We will launch a fundraiser to ensure that this reconstruction also takes place with popular participation,” he said.
Naples is “beauty, restart, while these acts of vandalism are the expression of a very large minority of people,” he added.
Naples Mayor Gaetano Manfredi said a fundraiser will be launched to ensure the installation is reconstructed.
Manfredi said he had heard from Pistoletto. “He was embittered and hurt, but he said that even this act so violent must be interpreted by us as a moment of restart.”
CCTV footage is being viewed by the police and “we hope to have some elements to be able to identify the perpetrators,” Naples Councilor for Security Antonio De Iesu said.
Pistoletto first made the “Venus of the Rags” artwork in 1967, creating a statue of the Roman mythological goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility, Venus, and placing her against a heap of rags he used to clean the surface of his “Mirror Paintings,” according to his website.
The artist gave shape to the original version of the historic “Venus of Rags” on a monumental scale in this recent installation, which was designed especially for Naples and unveiled on June 28 in Piazza Municipio (Town Hall Square). There are several versions of the piece on display in museums and galleries around the world.
The 'Venus of the Rags' installation was designed especially for Naples and unveiled in Piazza Municipio on June 28.
“Considered one of the most iconic works of the twentieth century and one of the artist’s most emblematic, the “Venus of the Rags” stages the contrast between the still beauty of the classical tradition and the transience of the contemporary,” the local government had said in a press release on June 28.
The ‘Venus of the Rags’ was unveiled as the first installation of the “Napoli Contemporanea 2023” (Contemporary Naples) exhibition, created with the aim of giving space to contemporary art in the streets and squares of the city, CNN’s affiliate SkyTG24 reported Wednesday.
“Venus represents today’s humanity, called to express its best side”, Pistoletto had said of his work.
This is not the first occasion in recent years on which valuable art has been left in ruins.
In 2022, an indigenous community in southern Australia was left devastated after vandals destroyed 22,000-year-old sacred cave art.
In the same year, British artist Damien Hirst burned thousands of his signature “spot” paintings to make a statement about the value of art after creating corresponding NFTs.
In 2020, an installation by Gabriel Rico in a Mexico City gallery shattered to pieces after art critic Avelina Lésper placed a can of soda near the work.