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Naples gets new ‘Venus of the Rags’ artwork after original destroyed by fire

A new version of Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Venus of the Rags” has been unveiled in Naples after the original was destroyed in a suspected arson attack.

The artwork—a statue of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility, and a heap of rags—stands in the Italian city’s Piazza Municipio once again following a ceremony Wednesday.

The inauguration was attended by Pistoletto, Naples mayor Gaetano Manfredi and various other local officials, according to a media release from the local council, which called the work “a symbol of resistance, hope and rebirth.”

Michelangelo Pistoletto (center) with mayor of Naples Gaetano Manfredi (right) at the inauguration ceremony. - Marco Cantile/LightRocket/Getty Images
Michelangelo Pistoletto (center) with mayor of Naples Gaetano Manfredi (right) at the inauguration ceremony. - Marco Cantile/LightRocket/Getty Images

A crowdfunding campaign was set up to rebuild the artwork after the fire in July 2023, but Pistoletto decided to donate the money raised to two local charities.

“I am happy that the reconstruction of the ‘Venus of the Rags’ in Piazza Municipio brings care, benefit and salvation to many people who need it,” the artist, who has donated the work to the city, said in the media statement.

The new version is “apparently identical” to the one that was burned, councillor Vincenzo Trione said in the statement.

“The new Venus, however, is supported by the wreck that survived the fire on 12 July, which has undergone careful restoration and restoration work. Like a phoenix risen from its ashes,” he said.

The work will be displayed in Piazza Municipio for three months before being moved to a permanent spot.

Pistoletto first made the “Venus of the Rags” in 1967. There are several versions of the piece on display in museums and galleries around the world.

“Considered one of the most iconic works of the 20th century and one of the artist’s most emblematic, the ‘Venus of the Rags’ stages the contrast between the still beauty of the classical tradition and the transience of the contemporary,” the local government said in a press release in June 2023.

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