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Foster slams Venice building ads

Norman Foster has joined directors from some of the world’s leading museums to call for the Italian government to remove giant advertisements placed on some of Venice’s most historic sights

Leading figures from the British Museum, the V&A and the Museum of Modern Art in New York are some of the others to put their names to a letter which says Italy’s culture minister, Sandro Bondi, and the rest of the Italian government are violating Venice’s Unesco ranking as a world heritage site with the huge banners.

The letter, published in the Art Newspaper, which was also signed by the heads of museums in Boston, Dresden, Stockholm and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, said the billboards ‘hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind’.

The city is currently renovating many of its historic buildings and town hall officials began selling advertising space in 2008 on the awnings used to cover scaffolding erected for restoration work around St Mark’s Square and up and down the Grand Canal.

But it is claimed things got out of hand this summer when a Coca-Cola advertisement almost covered the whole of the Bridge of Sighs. The landmark has since being dubbed the ‘bridge of signs’. It is now home to an advertisement for luxury goods retailer Bulgari, which it rents for 40,000 euros (£34,861) a month.

The city council has recently given permission for the advertisements to be lit at night, which opponents claim in their letter will make the problem even worse.

The mayor of venice, Giorgio Orsoni, has defended the advertising scheme. He said he was ‘amazed at the complaints … The awnings are there for safety and I do not see why, just like in other Italian cities, they cannot be used for advertising.’

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