The Italian Ministry of Tourism has released a promotion video that has sparked countless backlash in a little over a week. The €9 million ad campaign has not only been ridiculed by social media users, but also heavily criticised by art historians.
The almost 3-minute-long video, which has since been deleted from the official YouTube account, starts off with a few shots of what Italy has to offer. Entitled “Open to meraviglia” (Open to wonder), the ad then introduces a modernised version of Botticelli’s Venus as a “virtual influencer”, posting on her Instagram page about her adventures throughout the country.
As if to add insult to injury, besides what art historians call a “grotesque” and “obscene” portrayal of the Roman goddess of love, at about the 27 second mark in the video, a group of people is shown sitting around a table enjoying wine in what is supposed to be a typical Italian setting. However, keen eyed observers have noticed that not only the bottle of wine on the table is from a Slovenian vineyard, but the shot itself was filmed in the village of Gorjansko, in Slovenia’s Komen municipality, and comes from Artgrid, a foreign stock image and video website.
After Massimiliano Milic, from the production company Terroir Films, first noticed the mishap, twitter users were quick to ridicule it. One wrote “Marvellous! What will the next step be? Advertise Prosecco with a bottle of Champagne?”, while another said “Well, the Venus of Santanchè convinced me. This year I’m going on holiday in Slovenia”, taking a shot at minister of tourism Daniela Santanchè who is the mastermind behind the campaign.
“I consciously chose Botticelli’s Venus, an icon known throughout the world and a symbol of our Italian spirit”, Santanchè said, adding that the campaign is meant to promote Italy “in an unseen way that has never been done before”. This was another controversial point, since the modernised Venus’ Instagram page promotes already well-known attractions like Rome’s Colosseum, Pantheon or Fontana di Trevi.
Art historian Tomaso Montanari called the campaign “grotesque” and an “obscene” waste of money, while Livia Garomersini, also an art historian, asked “where is the art, where is the promotion in this hackneyed jumble of clichés?”, commenting that the ad “trivializes our heritage in the most vulgar way”. “We’re fighting against commercial exploitation that ridicules our artistic jewels, like the aprons showing the statue of David’s private parts or grotesque reproductions of works of art in stupid poses”, said Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, where Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is housed in the Uffizi Gallery.
The culture ministry’s undersecretary Vittorio Sgarbi also remarked in the La Repubblica newspaper that “since Venus is naked, it would have been better to see her that way, without needing to dress her up like this”, describing the campaign as “the stuff of Ferragni” (a reference to famous social media influencer Chiara Ferragni). He also took issue with the title’s mix of Italian and English: “I don’t want to contradict my colleagues too much. But “Open to meraviglia? What’s that about? What language is it?”
“I don’t understand the criticism, pizza is famous all over the world, it is part of the Mediterranean diet and of our cuisine, which is appreciated, imitated, and copied all over the world”, calling the critics “slightly snobby and radical chic people who eat caviar and salmon”. She also responded to comments over the high budget saying that the €9 million includes the promotion in airports and cities around the world.