This is all that's left from the art installation after the fire, Source: Gaetano Manfredi Facebook

Naples’ Venus of the Rags burns down in possible arson attack

Naples’ Venus of the Rags burns down in possible arson attack

The artwork was meant to serve as a debate piece on our excessive consumerist and waste-generation culture

The Venus of the Rags (Venere degli Stracci), by Michelangelo Pistoletto, was a 10-metre tall art installation which graced Naples’s Piazza Municipio – alas for only two weeks, before it was destroyed by fire on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday.

The fire that destroyed the work began around 5:30, as evidenced by the videos made by various people who were nearby at the time. For now, the causes are not known and investigations are underway.

However, there are already speculations in the air. The mayor of Naples, Gaetano Manfredi, said he had learned from the Pistoletto Foundation, and quoted by Il Post, "that in the last few days there was a kind of competition on social media inviting people to burn the statue". 

The local authorities feel indignant about the situation and have vowed to organize immediately a fundraiser and reconstruct the artwork.

Environmentally unsustainable crime?

The art piece, created initially in 1967 in a smaller format, was specially recreated by its author as a way to encourage conversation and reflection on the unbridled consumerism and waste-generation lifestyles of Western societies. It consisted of two parts: a statue of Venus and a pile of old clothes.

One could even say it was a commentary on our obsession with clothes and fast fashion and the resulting damage this obsession has on our environment given the unsustainable processes involved in textile production.

Perhaps, somewhat perversely, one could also argue that the arsonist act (if proven intentional) was also part of the commentary or involvement in the debate in the most brutal way. After all, burning all these clothes kind of underscores the improper way of dealing with textile waste, since it contributes significantly to carbon emissions.

Globally, the textile sector contributes 10% of the entire greenhouse gas emissions, and in Europe, it is the fourth most polluting after the food, construction and transport industries.



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