Art museum seeks German asylum to flee Italy's mafia

Mafia threats and government incompetence drove Antonio Manfredi to the end of his tether. Yesterday the Italian museum director announced that he had written to Chancellor Angela Merkel pleading for asylum for his museum in Germany to escape the crime-ridden town in which his art collection is housed.

"I wrote a letter to Chancellor Merkel," said Mr Manfredi, the director of the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) in Casoria, an impoverished, heavily Mafia-influenced town close to Naples in southern Italy. He declared he wanted the German chancellor to save his collection from ruin.

"I'm serious – it's not some kind of performance art," said Mr Manfredi, who also works as a sculptor. "If she gives me asylum, I'm going to pack up my bags and move to Germany with my staff and the museum's entire collection of 1,000 works," he added.

Threatening phone calls and repeated acts of vandalism have left Mr Manfredi in no doubt that he is under the near-constant surveillance of the Camorra, the name given to the Mafia in southern Italy. He said he had sent copies of his letter in Italian and German to Ms Merkel's Berlin chancellery and the German embassy in Rome.

His request for German asylum was accompanied by a broadside against Silvio Berlusconi's government for failing to take care of Italy's cultural and artistic heritage: "If the Italian government isn't capable of taking care of its cultural treasures, then let another country do it," Mr Manfredi told Der Spiegel magazine. "This is a warning scream from Italian art to the world," he added.

Mr Manfredi, 50, founded his museum in 2005 with the help of grants from his local municipality. But within three months the funding dried up and all the officials who approved the project were mysteriously replaced. In October that year Casoria's city council had to be dissolved because of fears that it had been completely infiltrated by the Camorra.

"I wanted to go on, but I realised that no town, no region, and no state would help me," Mr Manfredi complained.

His museum has collected some 1,000 pieces of contemporary art and deals with a wide spectrum of cultural issues ranging from paedophilia to urban decay. However when six West African immigrants were allegedly shot by the Camorra in Naples in 2008, the museum ran an exhibition called "AfriCAM" and then another called "CAMorra" – which was about the local mafia.

Not long afterwards, the phone threats and vandalism began. Security cameras were stolen and there were attempted break-ins. "The Mafia does not need to say outright 'we are going to kill you'," Mr Manfredi said. "You get the message anyway."

"Germany has been one of the few countries that hasn't cut its culture budget. It gives a lot of money to research unlike here," he said, adding that he had even planted a German flag outside the museum to show his support. Italy's government has slashed culture budgets in recent months, provoking a wave of protests.

However, Chancellor Merkel's office was clearly unmoved by Mr Manfredi's appeal for asylum yesterday. A spokeswoman said there would be no official response to his letter as it was considered a form of public protest rather than a genuine asylum application.

Even if Mr Manfredi and his museum were to be granted asylum, they might well be disappointed: a study by the management consulting firm A.T. Kearney in 2010 predicted that every tenth museum or cultural institution in Germany could well be forced to close by 2020 due to lack of public funding.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent