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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment