| Image of deformed David to assail Italian consciences |
A shock campaign involving mutilated Michelangelos and beaten-up Botticellis is to be launched at Italians over the next few weeks, to get them used to the idea of contributing personally to the upkeep of their vast cultural heritage.http://www.guardian.co.uk/italy/story/0,12576,1559604,00.html
Italy's state-owned broadcaster, Rai, has been enlisted for the onslaught featuring the destruction of some of the country's most famous art treasures and cultural sites under the slogan: "Without your help, Italy could lose something."
Organisers hope images of a limbless David and Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper with the disciples scratched out will scare Italians enough to make them into dig into their pockets.
A third of cultural sites are deemed to be in a state of emergency. But Silvio Berlusconi's government, which is struggling to stay within EU-imposed limits on its budget deficit, is in no position to step up its contribution to the maintenance and restoration of art treasures. Last year it ordered hefty cuts in the culture ministry's budget.
This year, the government plans to spend €26m (£18.6m) on the upkeep and restoration of hundreds of churches, palaces, convents and museums - less than half the amount independent studies estimate is needed just for maintenance.
"The care and defence of our cultural and artistic heritage isn't only the state's responsibility. It is every Italian's," the culture minister, Rocco Buttiglione, told Reuters news agency. "Italians must care for the great art they have around them today or it may not be there for future generations."
Venice is frequently cited as an example of the need for urgent intervention. But there are many other sites in dire need of funding.
Throughout Italy, there are important works of art deteriorating on the walls of churches and convents.
CittaItalia, the non-profit foundation spearheading the campaign and collecting the donations, estimates Italy has more than four million works of art that are unarguably worth conserving. Those that feature in the campaign, such as Michelangelo's David, are in fact safe.
The organisers of the campaign, which is backed by the government, plan to spend the funds they raise on lesser-known works often found in the poorer provinces of Italy, in the south and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Before the summer, visitors to CittaItalia's website were asked to suggest works for conservation or repair. Italy is new to arts sponsorship, and until now what little there has been has mostly involved big firms backing high-profile performances and exhibitions.