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Italian museum director burns paintings to protest budget cuts

Antonio Manfredi, director of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum near Naples, Italy, watches as he burns a painting. He said he plans to burn three paintings every week to protest government cuts in funding for museums and galleries.
Antonio Manfredi, director of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum near Naples, Italy, watches as he burns a painting. He said he plans to burn three paintings every week to protest government cuts in funding for museums and galleries.Cesare Abbate / EPA

Frustrated by limited government funding, the director of an art museum outside Naples, Italy, set fire to two paintings this week in protest, warning more would feel the heat of budget woes, the Guardian of London reported.

"There's no money for upkeep. We were flooded recently. And there are tons of garbage mounting up outside," Antonio Manfredi, director of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum, told the Guardian.

The first painting sacrificed was by French artist Severine Bourguignon, who supported the burning. The painting was worth about $13,000. Bourguignon watched her painting burn via Skype, the BBC reported.

The second painting was by Neapolitan artist Rosaria Matarese, The Associated Press reported. She also gave her consent to burn her work, worth about $9,000.

Manfredi said he intends to burn three more as part of what he called “art war.”

Italy has faced a series of austerity measures in the last year. Art institutions say they have been hit hard as state subsidies have decreased, the BBC reported.

But Manfredi has asked not just for public funding but also official support.

The lack of funds has resulted in weakened security, which thieves have used to their advantage, the Guardian reported. Manfredi said the mafia, which thrives in Naples, has stolen security cameras and art.

"Our 1,000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the government's indifference," Manfredi said.”This is war. This is revolution.”

He noted that his museum has 1,000 pieces of art by European, African and Chinese artists, so this could be a long protest.

Officials of the center-left Democratic Party in Italy appealed for money for the museum Wednesday.

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