A portrait of combative, former-combat journalist Oriana Fallaci sans head went up recently in Milan. Dubbed “Decapitated Oriana” by the papers, protesters picketed the gallery where it is part of a show by artist Giuseppe Veneziano.
The picketers were from a conservative group called “Italia con Oriana” (Italy with Oriana), ostensibly to protect her against this artistic violence…
She floats, as if a weight from her shoulders has been lifted. Those eyes though, bordered by a trademark flip of black eyeliner, still gaze fiercely. Her neck trails off in a bloody cascade.
The picketers were from a conservative group called “Italia con Oriana” (Italy with Oriana), ostensibly to protect her against this artistic violence.
It seems her post 9/11 banshee wail against Islam, “The Rage and the Pride,” has made her an involuntary poster girl for anti-Islam sentiment. A flyer handed out in front of the gallery reportedly said, “This is only a picture…but the Muslims really do cut heads off. We must defend ourselves from these barbarisms, defend our civilization.”
Before Christmas she decided, speaking from a long, self-imposed exile in New York, to ask an Italian court to keep the group (and numerous similar ones) from using her name for “squalid political games.” Still, she must need protection, even though she doesn’t want it.
Protection? This is a woman who fought Fascists in her teens, worked for years as a war correspondent and held her own in interviews with everyone from Henry Kissinger to Yasser Arafat. Think Martha Gellhorn for the Gloria Steinem age. (Her “Letters to an Unborn Child,” and “Interview with History,” still read in Europe, are worth trawling used books for — they are out of print in the U.S.).
After seeing the painting, actual title “Occidente, Occidente” (West, West), I’m not sure what the hubbub is about. Although the headless hack was all over the papers, on a Saturday afternoon the tiny gallery was populated by one old guy (custodian? friend of the gallery owner?) sitting on a metal café chair.
The quality of Veneziano’s work is not quite up to his pr department. Among the works in the “American Beauty” show, most apparently chosen for shock value, are a small-sized Abu Grahib series, a cartoony giant Statue of Liberty weeping blood and Jeff Koons banging the Pink Panther. All of them look like they might qualify for admission to a second-rate art-school. Maybe.
Does it have to be good art to qualify for freedom of expression protection?
It was reported that Veneziano sold the painting for €10,000, about $12,000.
How much more “Western” can you get than creating a 15-minute window of opportunity for a quick buck?
This story was first published at spot-on