Italian culture minister under fire for lewd and sexist comments

A prominent Italian art critic and junior culture minister is facing criticism following a lewd outburst at a museum event in Rome.

 Vittorio Sgarbi (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Vittorio Sgarbi
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

Vittorio Sgarbi, a prominent Italian art critic and junior culture minister in Giorgia Meloni’s right ring government, has sparked controversy following his lewd rant at the MAXXI national museum of contemporary art and architecture in Rome.

While giving a speech an event to launch the museum's summer program, Sgarbi went off on a bizarre sexual rant that including graphically praising male sexual organs, and boasting about his high number of female sexual conquests.

"French author Houllebecq says that, in life, there's a moment in which we know only one organ: the d*ck," he stated while conversing with the museum's president and fellow speaker at the event, Alessandro Giuli. "The d*ck is an organ of knowledge, that is of penetration, it serves to [make us] understand."

"He's quoting Moravia," Giuli quipped in response.

Some of Sgarbi’s comments also included very misogynistic and derogatory language towards women.

“At a certain point, turning 67, the prostate appears and you have to deal with this fucking bitch whore you’ve never met in your life,” Sgarbi said. “The cock goes away and the prostate comes.”

He claimed that this was a quote from a conversation he had with French novelist Michel Houellebecq.

 MAXXI Museum in Rome, Italy (credit: WIKIMEDIA)
MAXXI Museum in Rome, Italy (credit: WIKIMEDIA)

Sgarbi also took a phone call mid-speech with an unidentified individual whom he called a “cuckold” and told that at one point in time he’d been engaging in intercourse with “nine women a month.”

He went on to allege that the recently deceased former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had his own reputation for salaciousness and was known to be close friends with Sgarbi, had been intimate with fewer than 100 women" in his life, which Sgarbi described as a "tragedy".

The museum event took place on June 21st, however the 45-minute video of the undersecretary’s comments, resurfaced this weekend in several reports from Italian news sources such as La Repubblica. The video has lead to criticism from Italian politicians, including many who make up the current government.

Sgarbi doubles down on comments

Following the speech, 44 of the museum’s 49 employees, the majority of whom are female, wrote a letter imploring the museum president to defend MAXXI’s values and condemn Sgarbi’s comments.

Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano sought to distance himself from Sgarbi’s comments, stating that “freedom of thought, protected by our constitution, is sacrosanct but must never lapse into vulgarity.”

“Respect for women is a constant in my life,” Sangiuliano added.

The Culture Minister also wrote a letter to the MAXXI president stating that sexism and profanity are "inadmissible in all contexts", especially "in a cultural space and from someone who represents institutions."

When asked if he was concerned that he might be fired, Sgarbi was dismissive and said that  that asking for his resignation over “something like this” would be “censorship, true fascism.”