Solmi's "il vilipendio di cose destinate al culto"

Federico_Solmi_crucifix.jpg
Federico Solmi's "crucifix" [my punctuation], related to his 2008 hand-drawn animation video, "The Evil Empire", a satirical look at the outrageous exploits of a fictive pope, and a part of his "ongoing desire to satirize tyrants" [as quoted in both ARTINFO and ArtNet].


I suppose this artist's work may look to some like heady stuff, but only if you're Catholic, unwholesomely deferential toward superstition, or just dysfunctionally prudish.

The object shown at the top is a little provocative, but it's also very beautiful, and I think his red knob is cute. Still, Solmi's crucifix, while being shown at Bologna's Arte Fiera this past January, so aroused local judge Bruno Giangiacomo (Judge for the Preliminary Investigation (Giudice per le Indagini Preliminari or G.I.P) who appears to have only heard about it second hand, that he had the Carabinieri seize it from the booth occupied by Naples' Not Gallery and the artist charged with, essentially, blasphemy ("il vilipendio di cose destinate al culto"/"contempt for an article of worship") and obscenity ("l’esposizione di oggetti osceni"/"the display of obscene objects"). The crucifix had already been sold to a collector, and Solmi first heard about the charges after he had returned to his home in New York. The blasphemy count was later dropped, when someone realized that the statute had been rendered null by a constitutional court in 2000.

No, sadly, this wasn't a publicity stunt, but when I was first told about the confiscation and the charges I did think that someone was pulling my leg. Actually I was almost stupefied, since the great city where this occurred has the reputation here of being Italy's most politically and socially radical. The artist's own home town and the capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna led the country’s socialist movement early in the twentieth century, was extremely active in the revolt against the fascists in 1944, and after the war, until the last decade, the city consistently voted for communist governments. I had assumed its fiery, secular, non-conformist political history would have supported an artist's right to his creation, however provocative. Now it's up to the lawyers to decide how much liberty is too much liberty.



Federico_Solmi_Evil_Empire_signs.jpg
drawing used in Solmi's "Evil Empire" video


Our own art fairs last week didn't produce anything like this kind of excitement. It almost makes me nostalgic for Rudy Giuliani's imbecilic tantrum over the Brooklyn Museum show, "Sensation", ten years ago. Just kidding; maybe we should think of censoring little boys and she-goats as more than enough excitement.


For more information see these ArtNet and ARTINFO articles.


[image at the top from the artist's New York gallery, LMAK Projects, via ArtNet]