MILAN (Reuters) – Artist Simone Fugazzotto on Tuesday defended a widely criticized anti-racism campaign launched by Italian football league Serie A, which features her monkey paintings.
Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto, who designed an anti-racism artwork with three side-by-side monkey paintings, presented by Italian football league Serie A, poses for a photograph in Milan, Italy on December 17, 2019. REUTERS / Flavio Lo Scalzo
Racism has plagued Italian football, with black players often being insulted at stadiums, and the media showing little sensitivity to the subject.
"I'm proud of what I did because maybe for the first time … we can really tackle this problem," Fugazzotto told Reuters.
Seeking to solve the problem of racism head-on, Series A promoted a series of three Fugazzotto chimpanzee paintings under the motto "No to racism."
The move sparked a wave of criticism on social media, and the top Serie A teams moved away from the campaign, but Fugazzotto said he was trying to defy prejudice.
“I tried to change the words of racists. At the stadium, they scream "monkey", throw bananas on the field and make monkey noises, so I said … I'll change that theme and say we're all monkeys, "he said.
The artwork first appeared on Italian TV and newspapers in the summer and had no reaction, but there was a fierce contraction on Monday when it was presented at an event in Milan, with negative comments ripping through social media.
"I expected some controversy, but not so," said Fugazzotto, describing the response as a "complete madhouse."
Anti-racism group Fare described using chimpanzee imagery as a "bad joke" while leading Serie A clubs, AS Roma and AC Milan condemned the campaign.
"We understand that the League wants to fight racism, but we don't believe this is the right way," Roma wrote on Twitter. Milan said it totally disagreed with the decision to use monkeys.
Both clubs this month denied access to their training centers to Italian daily Corriere dello Sport reporters after the newspaper published a front page headline "Black Friday" about a photo of two black players.
Born in Milan, Fugazzotto is famous in Italy for his images of monkeys. He said he came up with the idea of the contested trio of paintings after Napoli's Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly suffered racist slurs during a match at Inter Milan last year.
Fugazzotto said Series A officials were brave in embracing their work.
"Art in all centuries has generated discussion and controversy," he added.
Written by Angelo Lover Editing by Crispian Balmer and Ed Osmond
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