Damaged Banksy Mural in Venice Will Be Restored, Defying Local Critics

A damaged Banksy mural in Venice will be restored, Italy’s culture ministry has announced, though critics close and afar remain divided over whether it should be allowed to naturally deteriorate.

Vittorio Sgarbi, an undersecretary in Italy’s culture ministry, said in a statement that the restoration will be funded by an “important bank.” A press conference scheduled for today and dedicated to the subject was canceled without elaboration. ARTnews has reached out to the ministry for comment, however Sgarbi’s office told the Art Newspaper that the restoration will proceed.

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A cylindrical building, partially destroyed, is seen in the distance of a color photograph. It is perhaps five stories tall. In the foreground, two people in orange vests walk through a construction site.

The mural, titled Migrant Child (2019), is painted on the wall of a building along the Rio Novo canal, in the heart of Venice’s Dorsoduro district. It depicts a child holding up a flare and wearing a life vest. The mural appeared overnight between May 2019, and is just one of two works attributed to the anonymous British street artists in an Italian city. 

Migrant Child has become a popular tourist attraction, but years of exposure to the damp environment has caused significant damage. The situation prompted arguments among the city’s locals and the larger art community in Italy over whether it should be allowed to gradually fade. Critics were divided over the fundamental purpose of street art: wasn’t its ephemeral nature the point? 

Per Italian law, decisions regarding public art made less than 70 years ago do not fall under the jurisdiction of the state body that oversees heritage preservation.

“I take the responsibility for this restoration given that contemporary art is part of my remit, and it is my job to protect it,” Sgarbi said in the statement, adding that the ministry is not interested in “whether the artist is alive or even if he gives us his permission to conduct the restoration, given that, among other things, the mural was created illegally.”

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