Why will nobody fess up to nude statue cover-up?

As the Italian media on Wednesday raged against a decision to cover up nude statues during a visit to a Rome museum by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, mystery mounted over who actually endorsed it.

Why will nobody fess up to nude statue cover-up?
Some of the nudes at the Rome museum. Photo: CZSABoads

Both the government and the museum’s managers have denied responsibility.

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, who accompanied Rouhani on the museum trip, called the cover-up “incomprehensible”, insisting that neither him nor premier Matteo Renzi had been made aware of the decision in advance.

Meanwhile, a smiling Rouhani told reporters he had “no contact on the subject” with Italian authorities.

“I know that the Italians are very hospitable, a people who seek to make their guests' visits as pleasant as possible and I thank them for that,” he added.

Rouhani and Renzi made speeches in Rome's Capitoline Museums on Tuesday, with a huge statue of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius on a horse featuring prominently in many of the photographs of the event.

But nude statues, including a Venus dating from the second century BC, had all been covered up in temporary wooden cartons, removing the risk of them creeping into any of the shots – or catching Rouhani's eye.

Sources at Rome’s City Hall, which manages the venue, assured the press that the municipality had played no role in the decision, palming journalists off to the premier's office.

Franceschini then attempted to calm things down, telling Corriere: “I never spoke about it being the responsibility of the Capitoline superintendents. It’s clear that there was an excess of zeal on the part of those in charge of organizing such events, who made the decision, without telling, as I already said, either the premier or I.”

Paolo Aquilanti, the general secretary of the premier's office, has reportedly ordered an inquiry.

But Renato Brunetta, the lower house whip for Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, took to twitter in defense of the museum's management, alleging the request came from the premier.

Codacons, the Italian consumers' association, also waded in, saying the story, which was picked up by major international news outlets, has tarnished Italy’s reputation, while demanding that whoever was responsible – if the culprit is ever exposed – be fired.

They should be punished “for the severe damage done to the honour and image of Rome, and the whole of Italy, and for the disgrace inflicted on the country globally,” the association added.

Alessandro Di Battista, from the Five Star Movement party, said the story was akin to the shame of the ostentatious funeral of a mafia boss held in Rome last August.

“There’s government outrage but zero liability, in the end the custodian will pay.”

Corriere journalist Pierluigi Battista wrote in an editorial: “It’s a stain. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We mustn’t think that nude art is something shameful or contempitible.”

Staff at another museum were equally outraged.

“It was a crazy thing to do,” Paolo Severino, who works at a museum in central Rome, told The Local.

“Nude art is everywhere in Italy. And anyone who comes to a museum here knows what to expect. I've never seen or heard about anyone getting offended by it.”


Denmark’s top art school head sacked over royal bust stunt

The head of Denmark's top art school has been sacked over the drowning of a bust of a former king in a Copenhagen canal, the culture ministry said Monday.

Denmark's top art school head sacked over royal bust stunt
The bust of King Frederik V after being thrown into Copenhagen Harbour in November. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Artist Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld lost her job when she took a replica bust of the 18th-century monarch Frederik V from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where she was employed, and dumped it to draw attention to the country's colonial past and its involvement in the slave trade, especially in modern day Ghana.

The action, which she called a “happening,” was initially carried out anonymously. Dirckinck-Holmfeld was removed from her post the day she came forward as the responsible party.

The scandal on Monday claimed the scalp of the Academy's director Kirsten Langkilde, who had sent an internal mail with a link to the video of the bust being dumped without any comment, just saying “Have a good weekend”.

“The culture ministry and Kirsten Langkilde have not been able to come to an agreement on the challenges facing the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

There is therefore the need for new energy,” Culture Minister Joy Mogensen said.

The event, which took place on November 6th, was recorded in a video and the group Anonymous Artists claimed responsibility before Dirckinck-Holmfeld stepped forward.

Anonymous Artists said the action was to show “solidarity with all the artists, students and people all over the world who have had to live with the aftermath of Danish colonialism.”

At its peak, Denmark's colonies were spread across four continents from the Danish West Indies in the modern-day US Virgin Islands, to the Danish Gold Coast, now a part of Ghana.

Its holdings also included Greenland, which remains part of Denmark, and territories in India.

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