UPDATE: Pulling Rank, a Culture Ministry Official Says the State Has No Right to Possess to Radical Curator’s Museum

Yesterday, ARTINFO reported that artist and curator Antonio Manfredi had received a letter intervening to stop “CAM Art War,” a protest in which he and participating artists had been ceremonially burning his museum’s art collection, piece by piece. In the letter, superintendent Stefano Gizzi of the Naples cultural affairs office effectively placed the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) under state control, citing a paragraph in the legal code that obliged the government to protect items of cultural value.

Manfredi has openly doubted the Gizzi’s right to intervene, and now a higher ranking official in the Italian Ministry of Culture seems to agree. “It may be unbelievable to you,” Manfredi told ARTINFO, “but I’ve received a second letter from the Ministry, rejecting the first letter.”

Corriere del Mezzogiorno reports that Gregorio Angelini, regional director of cultural affairs in the Campania region, has written a second official letter “revoking the proceedings” initiated by superintendent Gizzi. Citing a “lack of legal requirements,” Angelini wrote that the code invoked by Gizzi does not support an intervention if the works of art were created in the last 50 years. Because they have been created and donated by young artists, this exception would apply to virtually all of the works in CAM’s permanent collection.

The confusion doesn’t end there. Speaking to the Corriere, Manfredi pointed out that the law cited by Gizzi in his first letter, legislative decree 42 of 2004, actually makes a separate case of noteworthy art works; if they’re valuable enough, then they can be protected by the state even if they were created less than 50 years ago. Because they were described by Gizzi as a “unique, unrepeatable, important, and prestigious collection of art,” there may exist an exception to an exception that would prevent Manfredi from continuing with the “CAM Art War” art-burning project.

“Ironically,” he told the Corriere, “it appears that burning the art works at our pleasure is set aside as a possibility. I have to say that the superintendent, even if he’s doing it coercively, appears to be more responsible than regional director Angelini.” At CAM, the mood has thus remained tense and unresolved. “At this point,” Manfredi told ARTINFO, “it is not clear if our collection is owned by the museum or the Italian State.”

— Reid Singer