Artist behind Serie A's controversial anti-racism posters defends work: 'we are all monkeys'

'No to Racism' campaign has been widely criticised by clubs and campaigners

An anti-racism campaign artwork by Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto featuring three side-by-side paintings of apes is presented by Italian soccer league Serie A during a news conference in Milan, Italy, December 16, 2019. Picture taken December 16, 2019. Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Powered by automated translation

The artist behind the controversial anti-racism campaign launched by Italian football's Serie A has defended his creation by stating: "we are all monkeys".

In the latest attempt to tackle racism in Italian football, three 'No to Racism' posters were released this week showing three monkeys with painted faces. The artwork is set to be displayed at Serie A headquarters in Milan.

There has been plenty of backlash to the campaign, with clubs including Roma and AC Milan releasing statements on social media "strongly disagreeing" with the message.

However, artist Simone Fugazzotto, who always uses monkeys in his artwork, has insisted his piece is meant to represent that all human beings are equal and to shed light on human origins.

"For an artist there is nothing more important than trying to change the perception of things through his own work," he said.

"I decided to portray monkeys to talk about racism because they are the metaphor for human beings. Last year I was at the stadium to see Inter v Napoli [when Kalidou Koulibaly was racially abused] and I felt humiliated, everyone was shouting 'monkey' at Koulibaly, a player I respect.

"I've always been painting monkeys for five to six years, so I thought I'd make this work to teach that we're all apes, I made the western monkey with blue and white eyes, the Asian monkey with almond-shaped eyes and the black monkey positioned in the centre, where everything comes from.

"The monkey becomes the spark to teach everyone that there is no difference, there is no man or monkey, we are all alike. If anything we are all monkeys."

Racism has been an ongoing problem within football and there have been plenty of high-profile incidents in Italy in recent times.

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli reacted to racist abuse from the stands by kicking the ball into the crowd in November, before calling those who shouted the abuse "small-minded".

Before then, in September, Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku said football was "going backwards" after he was subjected to racist abuse and monkey chants from Cagliari fans.

Meanwhile, prominent sports daily Corriere dello Sport faced wide criticism for using "Black Friday" as a headline with pictures of Lukaku and Chris Smalling to preview a game between Inter and Roma.

Anti-racism organisations Fare and Kick It Out both responded to the 'No to Racism' posters, describing the campaign as an "outrage" and "completely inappropriate".

"In a country in which the authorities fail to deal with racism week after week, Serie A have launched a campaign that looks like a sick joke," Fare said.

"These creations are an outrage; they will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanisation of people of African heritage.

"It is time for the progressive clubs in the league to make their voice heard."

Kick It Out said: "Serie A's use of monkeys in their anti-racism campaign is completely inappropriate, undermines any positive intent and will be counter-productive.

"We hope that the league reviews and replaces their campaign graphics."