Romanello, Gloria: Street art and cultural heritage: empowerment and legitimation of new cultural agents?

November 17th 2015 bandits stole 17 rare paintings from the Museum of Castelvecchio, in Verona (Italy). The haul included some masterpieces by Tintoretto, Mantegna, Rubens – just to mention a few of them. National media coverage was scarce, while institutions engaged in the usual blaming game.

To draw attention on this cause, a group of artists, who were shocked at the indifference of the national cultural system and the public in general, calls for action by launching the campaign #Iwontgetscrewedover. A large network of artists is involved: they are asked to choose one of the works stolen from Castelvecchio and re-interpret it either on a public wall. Despite its complexity, this campaign quickly spread, forcing us to think twice about street-art legitimacy, supposed semantic limits and cultural value. Street-art agents, as a rightful but frustrated public, is blaming and pressing institutional cultural hierarchies to rethink their roles. Are traditional cultural institutions properly promoting, conserving and legitimating our heritage? All this considered, this campaign brings different approaches to cultural policies and art word contents into communication with one another and leads us to compare traditional art institutions and street-art contexts, in a time when these worlds seem to slowly get closer to each other. This paper aims to put forward street-art themes from an unusual point of view: while (apparently) they tend to dissociate from traditional art display settings, such as museums and galleries, they take on their role to enhance the value and profile of traditional cultural heritage, wishing to make street-art duly taken into account for its political, cultural and moral value.