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Antonio Manfredi, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Casoria, Italy, looks on as an artwork by French artist Séverine Bourguignon is burned on April 17. (Roberta Basile/AFP/Getty Images)

An Italian contemporary art museum has started burning paintings from its permanent collection as part of a protest campaign against the government's purported lack of support for the cultural sector.

Museum director Antonio Manfredi torched La Promenade, a floral canvas by French artist Séverine Bourguignon valued at approximately $9,000 to $13,000 Cdn, at Casoria Contemporary Art Museum near Naples on Tuesday evening.

Bourguignon, who supported the protest, followed the event through an online video link. She agreed to the destruction of her work and described the move as political, necessary and compelling in the face of adverse circumstances.

On Wednesday at 6 p.m. local time, Neapolitan artist Rosaria Matarese is scheduled to set fire to one of her artworks at the museum.

Manfredi has vowed to continue this protest, dubbed Art War, by burning three artworks per week.

"Our 1,000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the indifference of the government," he told reporters.

The outspoken Manfredi has courted controversy before. In 2011, he wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking for asylum, saying he was fed up with the Italian government's failure to protect the country's cultural heritage as well as with threats from the mafia after a daring exhibit critical of Italian organized crime.

He vowed to move the museum and its art collection to Germany if asylum was granted, but received no reply.

The Italian government has enacted harsh austerity measures that include slashing financial support to arts and culture groups. Critics have blasted officials for everything from the drastic gallery and museums budget cuts to poor management of historical sites like the ruins of Pompeii.