The new artwork sparked a backlash on social media but the artist explained that he wanted to turn the derogatory term on racists who use it
Serie A’s latest initiative in the ongoing battle to eradicate racism from Italian football has sparked controversy after the league chose to permanently exhibit artwork featuring three monkeys at its headquarters.
The artist, Simone Fugazzotto, is renowned for his metaphorical depictions of monkeys as human beings and explained that his intention was to “turn the concept back on the racists”, highlighting that all humans evolved from apes.
The league’s decision to permanently install the paintings in their main base of operations has not been hugely well received, however, with players such as Romelu Lukaku and Kalidou Koulibaly having previously been targeted with monkey chants from racist fans.
As a result, large groups of supporters who were unaware of the backstory of the imagery have been left shocked, but Serie A general manager Luigi De Siervo made it clear at Monday’s summit that the works are part of a three-pronged approached to battling intolerance in the game.
“Simone’s paintings fully reflect the values of fair play and tolerance, so will remain in our headquarters,” De Siervo explained. “The Lega is taking a strong stand against any form of prejudice.
“We realise racism is an endemic problem and very complex, so we are facing it on three fronts – cultural, via works of art such as Simone’s paintings, sporting through a series of initiatives and players and clubs, and also repressive, thanks to the collaboration with the police.
“By acting on these three levels, we are sure that we can win the most important match against this plague that is ruining world’s most beautiful sport.”
The artist himself went into great detail about the motivation behind his work, stating previously on Instagram: “This idea for this campaign comes from afar. It was December 26 and I was at the stadium to see Inter vs Napoli, an incredible game decided in the last minute by my brother Lautaro Martinez.
“I heard – and certainly not for the first time – insults and monkey noises aimed at great player, Kalidou Koulibaly. I got so angry but almost as a result I got an idea: why not stop censoring the word monkey in football and turn the concept around and say instead that in the end we are all apes?
“Because if we are human beings, monkeys, reincarnated souls, energy or aliens, who cares, the important thing is to hear a concept of equality and brotherhood.”
At the unveiling at Serie A’s Assembly Hall, he added: “For an artist, there is nothing more important than trying to change people’s perceptions via their work.
“With this trio of paintings, I tried to show that we are all complex and fascinating creatures, who can be sad or happy, Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, but at the end of the day, what decides who we are is not the colour of our skin.
“I only paint monkeys as a metaphor for human beings. We turn the concept back on the racists, as we are all monkeys originally. So I painted a Western monkey, an Asian monkey and a black monkey.”