Italian artist Pistoletto’s ‘Venus of the Rags’ destroyed in arson attack

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FILE PHOTO: Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto's 'Venus of the Rags' is displayed in Piazza Municipio before being destroyed in a fire, in Naples, Italy July 1, 2023. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

ROME (Reuters) – An open-air installation of “Venus of the Rags”, one of the most famous works by Italian contemporary artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, was destroyed by an arson attack in Naples, Mayor Gaetano Manfredi said on Wednesday.

A new, giant version of the sculpture, of which several examples are on display in museums around the world, was inaugurated two weeks ago in Piazza del Municipio, a monumental square in the heart of the southern Italian city.

Speaking to reporters in front of the burnt down artwork, Manfredi described the incident as an act of vandalism under investigation by police, and said the installation would be recreated through a crowdfunding effort.

Italian scientific police members work next to the charred open-air installation of “Venus of the Rags”, following a fire, in Piazza del Municipio, Naples, Italy July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

The “Venus of the Rags”, a symbol of the Arte Povera movement which counts Pistoletto among its leading members, shows the Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility standing next to a pile of rags.

The installation, first created in 1967, is meant to convey the juxtaposition between eternal beauty, represented by the goddess Venus, and modern society’s social degradation and consumerism.

In comments to Italian news agency Adnkronos, Pistoletto said the destruction of his artwork reflected how “we continue to respond to any offer of beauty, peace and harmony with fire and war.”

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