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Michelangelo Pistoletto donates new version of public installation to city of Naples following arson attack

Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of Italy’s best-known living artists, will donate a new version of his installation Venus of the Rags to the city of Naples. The work will replace the original version that was burned down in an arson attack on 12 July. At a conference in the city on Friday, the artist said that the work would represent “rebirth” after “annihilation”.

A leading exponent of the Arte Povera movement, which is associated with works featuring inexpensive, found objects, Pistoletto created the original installation in the monumental square in front of Naples’s town hall on 28 June. It shows a 32-foot neoclassical Venus leaning against a towering mound of discarded clothing. When vandals set the rags alight, the polythene Venus melted.

The new version will be installed on the original site on 22 January and remain there for four weeks. “The Venus was not annihilated, but regenerated in the place where it once stood,” Pistoletto said during Friday’s conference. “It will be a great joy for everyone to have transformed suffering into a new opportunity for vitality and rebirth.”

Gaetano Manfredi, mayor of Naples, said that the town hall had launched a crowd-funding campaign to pay for the destroyed work to be replaced. As Pistoletto will now donate the new version, the town hall will ask each donor for permission to reallocate their funds to one of two associations representing marginalised communities in the city.

The vandalised Venus of the Rags was commissioned as part of the Contemporary Naples project, which is aimed at reenergising parts of Naples with public art. “Thanks to the public art projects we are carrying out, Naples is becoming an open-air, democratic, free museum for everyone to enjoy,” Manfredi said. “Our broader program aims to show how to build a city, finding original forms of urban regeneration that can involve the entire community with a view to social inclusion.”

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