Italian Right censors art show

This 2010 video is called Operation Leakspin: Italian Internet Bill Stifles Free Speech, Threatens Democracy.

Music: God Save the Queen, by the Sex Pistols.

From Italian news agency ANSA:

Gay art show pulled amid polemics

Organisers refuse Milan mayor’s demands to ditch 10 works

Milan, July 13 – A major art exhibition in Milan has been axed without ever opening its doors after a week of high-voltage polemics.

The show was scheduled to open to the public on Tuesday, but it stayed shut because of concerns about whether the works on display offended Catholics and were suitable for children.

On Friday centre-right Mayor Letizia Moratti demanded that 10 controversial works be removed and ruled that under-18s must not be allowed for it to open this weekend.

But organisers said they preferred to scrap the show altogether and stage it in another city instead.

“I agree with this decision,” said Milan Culture Councillor Vittorio Sgarbi, the show’s sponsor.

“When faced with censorship the most practical response is extreme censorship, i.e. the exhibition’s cancellation”.

Sgarbi said he even got former centre-right premier and opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi to try to persuade Moratti to change her mind.

“He phoned me back to tell me the mission had failed,” the culture councillor explained.

Moratti decided the 10 works were unsuitable because they featured minors or had religious references.

Sgarbi mocked her concern for Catholic sensibilities by calling her “Sister Letizia”. Organizers had already been forced to pull two artworks that had caused uproar earlier in the week.

The first was a Pope Benedict-look-alike sculpture, entitled Miss Kitty, made by local artist Paolo Schmidlin.

It depicts a half-naked elderly man, whose face looks like Benedict XVI‘s, wearing a white wig and stockings.

Sgarbi bought Miss Kitty and pulled it from the show in a vain attempt to head off the rows.

The second was a work based on a photograph of Premier Romano Prodi‘s spokesperson, Silvio Sircana, talking to a transgender prostitute – a shot that caused scandal earlier this year when published in newspapers.

Sgarbi, a gadfly art critic and former culture undersecretary, said the row had damaged Milan’s image as a city of tolerance.

He won the support of Tiziana Maiolo, a fellow member of Milan’s centre-right executive. “Apart from the work depicting the pope and the one of Sircana, the others could have been left,” said Maiolo, the city’s industry councillor.

“There was nothing more scandalous that what can be seen at Pompeii.

“You cannot put underpants on monuments. I’m sorry things turned out like this”. The show, entitled Arte e Omosessualita (Art and Homosexuality), was meant to run at the city’s Palazzo della Ragione until November.

It featured works by around 140 artists, including Andy Warhol, Britain’s David Hockney, Tracey Emin and Gilbert & George, French painting-photography duo Pierre et Gilles and American photographer Bruce Weber, famous for his ad campaigns for the Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren fashion labels.

Los Angeles Catholic Church paedophilia scandal: here.

Swedish far Right vandals attack exhibition of US photographer Serrano: here.

7 thoughts on “Italian Right censors art show

  1. 2007-08-02 20:52
    Sex scandal MP under investigation

    Catholic lawmaker probed for drug pushing

    (ANSA) – Rome, August 2 – An opposition MP at the centre of a sex and drugs scandal was placed under investigation on Thursday.

    Prosecutors said Cosimo Mele, a former member of the Catholic, centrist UDC party, was being investigated for drug pushing.

    Mele was caught out after a prostitute with whom he spent the night at a luxury Rome hotel overdosed on cocaine and had to be taken to hospital.

    The prostitute has told investigators that the 50-year-old MP supplied her and a girlfriend who joined them at the hotel with the drugs.

    She also told them Mele failed to help her when she fell ill, an accusation which could complicate the MP’s position.

    Mele, who is married with three children, denies taking drugs and says he was the one who insisted the girl seek medical help.

    The southern lawmaker resigned from the UDC party in disgrace after his Friday night antics became public.

    The incident was a major embarrassment for the small party, which espouses family values and is currently pressing for MPs to take drug tests.

    Mele, who has campaigned in the past on the need to “defend our Christian values and identity”, is one of the advocates of the drug-testing policy.

    But the UDC also drew ridicule and indignation when its leader Lorenzo Cesa suggested Italy’s highly-paid politicians be given a rise to allow their wives to join them in Rome.

    “The life of an MP is hard and solitude is a very serious thing,” Cesa said. The incident was not the first run-in with the law for Mele, who is also a construction businessman. He was arrested in 1999 while serving as deputy mayor of his hometown of Carovigno in Puglia for allegedly taking kickbacks on public works contracts. A trial is still under way.


    Mele said in interviews published earlier this week that “I didn’t take drugs and it wasn’t a threesome”.

    He said he was introduced to the prostitute by friends while dining at a restaurant.

    “We hit it off… I didn’t even know she was a prostitute,” Mele said.

    “I only realised later. I didn’t exactly pay her. Instead I gave her a present – some money,” he said.

    The lawmaker went with the woman to the Hotel Flora on Via Veneto, which features in Fellini’s 1960 classic La Dolce Vita.

    He says that she called a friend to join them in their suite and that he watched television while they chatted. He claims to have been sleeping when the two starting sniffing cocaine.

    “When we were alone again, she (the prostitute) began to feel bad. She seemed to be hallucinating. She didn’t want me to but I did what I thought was right and immediately called an ambulance. Before that, I called reception to see if there was a doctor around,” the MP told Rome daily Il Messaggero.

    In another interview with the Corriere della Sera, Mele said that he was “proud” of himself.

    “I realised when I called the ambulance that my name could come out. A lot of other men would have just taken off,” said the MP.

    He admitted he was worried about how his second wife, who is heavily pregnant, would take it all.

    The prostitute, meanwhile, told reporters that Mele was lying.

    She told La Repubblica daily that she and her friend spent the night with Mele and that “nobody slept”.

    When asked if Mele had called her an ambulance when she fell ill, she replied: “You must be joking. He tried to grab my cellphone out of my hands. I called my companion and my brother for help”.

    The UDC said Mele’s behaviour was “contrary to party values”.

    The party went ahead with a “symbolic” anti-drugs demonstration on Wednesday which involved voluntary drug testing for MPs outside parliament.

    A cult TV show caused uproar last year by exposing allegedly widespread drug use in parliament.

    The show Le Iene secretly tested 50 MPs for drugs, revealing that one in three had apparently taken them in the preceding 36 hours.

    Twelve tested positive for cannabis and four for cocaine, Le Iene said.

    The prank never aired because of protests by MPs who claimed their privacy had been violated.


  2. Anger over art showing Pope in sex pose
    Article from: Agence France-Presse

    From correspondents in Madrid

    September 21, 2007 09:52am

    THE Roman Catholic bishop of Ibiza has demanded that a collage depicting the late Pope John Paul II being sodomised be removed from an exhibit held at a former church on the Spanish holiday island.

    The work is one of three collages by Ivo Hendriks that are part of a showcase of art by 15 Dutch artists with ties to Ibiza made over the last 50 years that opened on September 7 and is due to run until the end of the month.

    The other two collages also depict religious figures in homosexual positions.

    Bishop Vicente Juan Segura said the works “offended Catholic sentiment” and he called for their ”
    “immediate and urgent withdrawal”.

    He threatened to take the issue to court if his demand was not met.

    Ibiza’s town hall, which approved the exhibition, said it would not remove the works.

    “Ibiza has never and will never exercise any form of censorship of artistic expression,” the town’s councillor for culture, Sandra Mayans, was quoted as saying by the online edition of daily newspaper El Mundo.

    But the bishop said Ibiza town hall had violated the terms of the 1997 agreement which allows it to use church buildings since it had not informed the church of the contents of the exhibit as required.


  3. 2007-11-15 11:26

    Gay art show finds home in Florence

    Controversial exhibit moved from Milan after flap

    (ANSA) – Florence, November 15 – A huge exhibition of gay art has finally found a home in Florence after clashes with Catholic politicians forced organisers to pull the plug on the same show in Milan earlier this year.

    Over 200 works by 150 artists are on display in Florence’s Palazzina Reale tracing connections between art and homosexuality from the birth of photography to the present day in the largest show of its kind ever held in Italy.

    Among the works exhibited are a sadomasochistic portrait of a man in a gimp mask by controversial American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, drawings of heavily muscled men engaged in graphic sexual acts by fetish artist Tom of Finland, and a picture of two men kissing under a crucifix by British painter John Kirby.

    The privately funded exhibition was originally set to open to the public at Milan’s Palazzo della Ragione in July but stayed shut amid concerns about whether the works on display offended Catholics and were suitable for children. Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti insisted on seeing each of the works to be included in the exhibition and drew up a blacklist of paintings and sculptures that had to be removed before it could open to the public.

    But Milan Culture Councillor Vittorio Sgarbi and the show’s organisers decided to scrap the exhibition altogether and move it to a different city rather than withdraw the contested works.

    The show has opened in Florence uncensored, albeit without the official blessing of the city council.

    ”The public finally has the opportunity to judge for themselves what is perhaps the most contested exhibition of recent years,” said curator Eugenio Viola at the show’s inauguration. ”It’s good news for freedom of expression and thought, and a happy epilogue to a difficult affair”. Viola has based his selection of works on a common theme of expression rather than on the sexuality of the artists, who are both gay and straight.

    ”On the basis of that logic some works have an openly homoerotic content, while in others this expresses itself in a less obvious way through codes, symbols, allegories and metaphors,” he explained.

    The show takes in over 100 years of gay art, including black-and-white photography by German artist Wilhelm von Gloeden from 1900, balletic nudes by Bruce of Los Angeles from the 1950s, portraits of famous male torsos by American fashion photographer Herb Ritts from the 1980s, and a video installation by bald German couple Eva and Adele, self-proclaimed ‘hermaphrodite twins’, from the 1990s.

    Other famous names include David Hockney, Keith Haring and Bruce Weber as well as the British royal family’s favourite snapper Mario Testino.

    Self-taught Italian artist Carol Rama is among the 20 women artists with works on display.

    But the most likely crowd-pullers are two sculptures by young Italian artists that topped Moratti’s blacklist in Milan: Paolo Schmidlin’s Miss Kitty (2006) – the life-size replica of an ageing, semi-naked transvestite in a wig, white underpants and stockings bearing a strong resemblance to Pope Benedict XVI; and Paolo Cassara’s Pieta’ (2007), which portrays a latex-clad Virgin Mary cradling a blow-up doll in place of the baby Jesus.

    ‘Art and Homosexuality – From Von Gloeden to Pierre et Gilles’ runs at the Palazzina Reale in Florence until 6 January 2008.


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