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Italian museum burns art to protest austerity cuts

By Nick Thompson, CNN
April 19, 2012 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A museum in Naples is burning its artworks to protest austerity cuts by the Italian government. A museum in Naples is burning its artworks to protest austerity cuts by the Italian government.
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Museum burns art in austerity protest
Museum burns art in austerity protest
Museum burns art in austerity protest
Museum burns art in austerity protest
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Italian museum to burn 3 artworks a week to protest budget cuts
  • First artwork was painting by French artist Severine Bourguignon
  • Artists from around Europe join "Art War" protest

(CNN) -- A museum in Italy is burning artworks from around the world to protest harsh austerity cuts by the Italian government.

Antonio Manfredi, director of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum in Naples, kicked off the protest this week by setting fire to a painting by French artist Severine Bourguignon.

Manfredi says the museum will burn three artworks each week as part of its "Art War" campaign.

"I have 1,000 artworks from artists around the world, and they're already facing destruction due to the indifference of the government," he told CNN. "We want the government to pay attention to the country's cultural institutions."

In the face of mounting debt problems, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has enacted tough austerity measures in an attempt to keep the country from defaulting.

Manfredi says those cuts have hit cultural institutions hard, and that a handful of museums in Rome, Palermo and elsewhere have closed in recent months due to lack of funding.

The museum is only burning works with the blessing of their artists. Bourguignon watched the burning of her painting via Skype, Manfredi says, and artist Rosaria Matarese from Naples torched her wood sculpture in person at the museum on Wednesday.

Other European artists are joining the protest -- Welsh sculptor John Brown burned one of his artworks on YouTube, and Manfredi says other artists will light up their artworks via Skype next week.

"Next week the first one is an artist from Austria," he told CNN. "I hope that the government stops me because this is terrible what I'm doing."

While Manfredi has never received government funding for his museum, he says he wants the government to come to Naples "just to see how difficult it is to be a museum here with no money."

Manfredi says the government has yet to respond to his protest, and says he won't stop until they answer.

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