Vandals in Naples Destroy Seminal Artwork by 90-Year-Old Italian Artist Michelangelo Pistoletto

MILAN (AP) — Vandals set fire and destroyed a seminal artwork by one of Italy’s most famous living artists early Wednesday outside Naples’ City Hall.

By the time flames were doused, all that was left of the installation by Michelangelo Pistoletto was a charred frame.

Pistoletto`s artwork, titled “Venus of the Rags” had been display in Naples since June 28. It featured a large plaster neoclassical nude Venus, inspired by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s 19th century “Venus with Apple,” picking through a mountain of rags.

Pistoletto made several versions of “Venus of the Rags.” The first, in 1967, had a concrete or cement Venus purchased at a garden center covered with mica to create a glittery surface. Others used plaster casts of the that statue, and one was made out of Greek marble containing mica, according to the Tate Gallery, which owns one of the pieces.

Pistoletto told the Corriere della Sera daily newspaper that the reasons for the attack could be many.

“It is a work that calls for regeneration, on the necessity to find a balance and harmony between two minds that are represented on the one hand by beauty, and on the other by consummate consumerism, a disaster,” the 90-year-old artist said.

He added: “The world is going up in flames anyway. The same spirits that are waging war are the ones that set the Venus on fire. ”

Pistoletto is a painter, object artist and art theorist who is one of the main representatives of the Italian Arte Povera movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s through which artists attacked the political, industrial and cultural establishment.