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Wrecked Migrant Ship Displayed by Christoph Büchel Returns to Sicily as Memorial

Wrecked Migrant Ship Displayed by Christoph Büchel Returns to Sicily as Memorial

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Wrecked Migrant Ship Displayed by Christoph Büchel Returns to Sicily as Memorial

Two years after its arrival at the Fifty-Eighth Venice Biennale, the wreck of a fishing vessel exhibited by Christoph Büchel as Barca Nostra is returning to Augusta, Sicily, which legally owns it, the New York Times reports. The Swiss Icelandic artist had displayed the ship, aboard which more than eight hundred Libyan migrants perished when it sank in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, at the Biennale with the intention of pointing up the migrant crisis engulfing Europe. The rusted hulk instead sparked outrage, with many criticizing it as an Instagram grab, presented as it was without label or context and parked directly across from a café.Further controversy attended the ship when it was revealed in December that it had been languishing in the Arsenale shipyard since the exhibition’s November 2019 closure, much to the dismay of biennial organizers, who had repeatedly begged the artist to retrieve it. Also eager for its return was the town of Augusta, which had loaned the vessel to Büchel with the understanding that it would be returned following the exhibition. Its cradle reportedly damaged during shipping, the wreck could not easily be moved, and thus continued to take up space in the Arsenale as Büchel, who was responsible for its transport, wrangled with his shipping company over the damage.This week, however, the vessel was finally delivered, via barge and tugboat, to Augusta. Proud of its reputation as a welcoming seaport, Augusta, a frequent first landing spot for migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, in 2019 lobbied for and was granted custody of the wreck, which it intended to display as a memorial. Once the ship undergoes maintenance, it will stand as a monument to human rights in what city authorities have characterized as a “Garden of Memory.”“We want this garden to become a place of reflection for the world,” Augusta mayor Giuseppe de Mare told the Times, “so that all people can ponder.”

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