Villagers outraged after artist pulls down church

An Italian artist has dismantled a church he bought on the internet in southern Italy to rebuild it at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, ruffling feathers among heritage authorities.

Villagers outraged after artist pulls down church
The church was dismantled in order for it to be rebuilt in New York. Photo: Wikicommons

The pretty church in the small village of Montegiordano in Calabria, built at the end of the 19th century and later desecrated, has been carefully taken apart and wrapped up stone by stone on the orders of Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli.

It now has to be shipped to the United States where it is expected to figure in the heart of one of the world's top contemporary art museums, the MoMA PS1 in the Long Island City neighbourhood of New York.

But locals in the village of 2,000 inhabitants are put out over losing their church and have reportedly filed a complaint alleging the property is national heritage.

Vezzoli, 42, a popular and controversial artist and filmmaker from northern Italy, aims to rebuild the church as part of his "Trinity" project on art, religion and glamour – a series of exhibitions being shown at the MOMA, the MOCA in Los Angeles and the MAXXI in Rome.

In Rome, he has created a gallery mixing the classical and contemporary, where faux Roman and Greek statues hold aloft examples of his work, while the Los Angeles exhibition plays on Vezzoli's use of the cinema world to mark the modern obsession with celebrity status.

Vezzoli, best known for his works featuring celebrities such as Courtney Love, Sharon Stone and Lady Gaga, aims to use the shows in the three cities to explore links between art, religion, sex and divas.

He bought the Montegiordano church on the Internet and plans to project his video works onto its rough stone shell.

But the locals' complaints have thrown a spanner in the works: while most of the dismantled church lies in a hangar in the local port of Gioia Tauro, the project has been blocked by the local cultural superintendent in Cosenza, according to the Corriere della Sera daily.

The artist, who insists he has all the correct paperwork and permits to proceed, told the daily that "the church was lost in scrub land and I'm taking it to the MoMA PS1, isn't it better there?"

"Taking it to MoMA PS1 had a symbolic importance for me, which perhaps isn't shared by whoever has blocked the project," he said.

"I am ready to send it back again afterwards and rebuild it as it was, or even restore it," he added.

Neither the cultural authorities nor the police were available for comment, but a source close to the artist said the situation "is being resolved".

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Easyjet apologises for advertising southern Italian region’s ‘mafia activity and earthquakes’

Get a taste of real Italy by bunking down in mafia land, the ad said. But Easyjet's bid to pitch Calabria backfired, and the company was forced to apologise on Tuesday.

Easyjet apologises for advertising southern Italian region's 'mafia activity and earthquakes'
The seaside town of Tropea in Calabria. Photo: sea_and_sunset/Unsplash

“For an authentic taste of Italian life, there's nothing better than Calabria,” the Italian-language advert on the British airline's website said. “The region suffers from a distinct lack of tourists because of its history of mafia activity and earthquakes”.

Easyjet said the region in Italy's southern tip, famous for its coastline, rich history and culture, suffered from “the lack of iconic cities such as Rome and Venice capable of attracting the Instagram crowd”.


Italy's minister for the south Peppe Provenzano on Tuesday demanded Easyjet “apologise to Calabria and Italy”, with Calabrian senator Ernesto Magorno shouting: “Shame on you Easyjet! Calabria is a wonderful land with exceptional people.”

The region's head, Jole Santelli, slammed the “pseudo-marketing operation” as “aggressive, short-sighted and with a clear racist undercurrent”.

Easyjet apologised, saying it had only wanted to point out that Calabria was undervalued by foreign tourists, and would remove the offending advert as well as launching an internal investigation, Italian dailies said.

“Calabria is a very important land for us, which we love and have always promoted with numerous flights to Lamezia Terme,” it insisted.

While Calabria may not be as well known overseas as other parts of southern Italy, the region attracts a healthy number of Italian tourists each summer with its spectacular rocky coastline and hyper-blue waters.

It's also one of the best places in Italy to find traces of the Ancient Greeks who settled in southern Italy before the Roman Empire, including two priceless bronzes discovered by a local diver after centuries underwater and now housed at the impressive National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.

The Riace Bronzes on display in Reggio Calabria. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP