Wednesday, August 07, 2013

What NOT to do in an Italian Museum…

It seems that an American tourist in Italy has generated shock and outrage by snapping the finger off a 600-year-old statue at a museum in Florence. If there is a Shock and Outrage list floating about, I am happy to sign.

The damage of a statue of the Virgin by Florentine sculptor Giovanni d'Ambrogio, is under investigation by researchers after it was accidentally struck by a US tourist. The tourist reportedly apologized for damaging a finger of the statue but may still face charges.

This is the kind of imbecilic behavior that only strengthens the international mindset that most American tourists are selfish, bumbling, demanding and obnoxious halfwits. I have seen these kinds of Americans each time I have traveled internationally. Frankly – and sadly - they’re not hard to miss.

As someone who has been to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence and who has stood in front of this very work of art, it blows my mind that anyone would think it appropriate to touch the 600 year old statue or - most shocking if true – “high-five” the statute’s delicate and raised hand. What a shame that some kind of exalted artistic justice magic didn’t cause Giovanni d'Ambrogio’s Virgin Mary to come to life just long enough to smack the (pardon the pun) holy hell out of the mouth-breathing blockhead.

Florence was at the epicenter of the Renaissance. The Fiorentini are justifiably very protective and proud of their artistic treasures. They are taught from birth to respect art. For a person to somehow feel that they have the right to walk up and touch an ancient treasure is wildly disrespectful!

In my opinion – as an Arts Professional – this only underscores the importance of arts education in our country where generations of young people now think that the only definition of being an artist is warbling out some auto-tuned pop song in front of a panel of narcissists or being a member of a fantasy Glee club composed of 25 to 30 year old High School seniors with hidden addiction issues.

When I was a small child, my mother – and artist in her own right - would tell me about the time that she saw Michelangelo’s Pietà at the 1964 World’s Fair. She was so moved by the experience, that I remember her crying in 1972 when the glorious work was attacked with a hammer by the mentally disturbed geologist named Laszlo Toth.

Pietà by Michelangelo

She’s been gone for close to 25 years now. If she were alive today, I can’t help but wonder what she would think about our country’s current dwindling culture and respect for art.

Perhaps the next time she’s having a cup of tea with Michelangelo, they can discuss the issue.

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