A mural entitled Migrant Child — one of only two works by the English graffitist Banksy in Italy — has been slated for restoration and safeguarding, the Italian culture ministry said on Wednesday.
Italian finance company Banca Ifis, which is headquartered in Venice, will fund the restoration, Culture Undersecretary Vittorio Sgarbi confirmed.
On the wall of a privately owned palazzo near Campo San Pantalon in the Dorsoduro district of Venice, Migrant Child depicts a shipwrecked child wearing a lifejacket and holding a flaming-pink warning torch. It first appeared in the early morning hours between May 8 and 9, 2019, just before the city’s Biennale of Art got underway. A few days later, the famously elusive Banksy, whose real identity remains unknown, posted the image on his Instagram page, confirming the mural was indeed that of the renegade English artist.
Since then, the mural has been deteriorating from the humidity, high water and salt spray.
Mayor of Venice and Luigi Brugnaro and President of the Veneto Region Luca Zaia were the first to bring the mural’s status to the attention of Culture Undersecretary Sgarbi. But because the work is less than 70 years old and its artist is living, the government could not act; Sgarbi, however, initiated the involvement of Banca Ifis, which had previously helped finance the International Sculpture Park inaugurated last September at the headquarters of Villa Fürstenberg in Mestre.
Commentators at the restoration press conference on Wednesday raised questions about the ethics of investing in an artwork that was produced illegally. The lawyer Jacopo Molina, speaking on behalf of the owners of the palazzo where the mural appears, noted that they requested restoration work on the Migrant Child just a month after its creation.
Sgarbi said that the work was unlike many examples of contemporary art in that it represented “democratic and popular values” and said that the obligation of the Culture undersecretary was to “save the saveable.”
Banksy’s only other surviving work in Italy, the Madonna With a Pistol in Naples, has already been preserved and placed under protection.