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.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before