Thursday, 26 April 2012

ITS BACK IN FASHION - Italian Museum Director's Dramatic Anti-Austerity Bonfire Sparks Solidarity Art-Burnings

A week after he made good on his promise to begin burning the permanent collection of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) in Italy to protest the lack of arts funding, the actions of curator Antonio Manfredi have sent sparks shooting around the beleaguered perifery of the European art world, igniting solidarity and parallel art-burning demonstrations in several northern Europe locales. Whether the gesture will further catch on remains to be seen, but the modest solidarity actions show that Manfredi's gesture has touched a nerve.

Among the institutions is the Kunsthaus Tacheles, a building known to art historians as a rugged symbol of Berlin's contemporary heritage. Built before the Second World War to house a department store, it fell into decay and was partially demolished before being taken over by vagabond artists. In 2010, it housed more than 70 artists sharing 30 studios, and last year, they responded to an open letter Manfredi had written to German Chancellor Angela Merkel requesting "cultural asylum" in Germany for his funding-starved institution by exhibiting his curatorial project, "May Be," in their space in Berlin. Though the Tacheles itself faces a chronically uncertain future, artists there have found a kindred spirit in Manfredi. "In southern Italy as in Berlin," they write on their Web site, "the freedoms of art, reason and culture as a whole are at risk under the mafia structures of business and politics."

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