‘I Decided to Shake the Sleeping Souls’: Italian Artist Dyes the Trevi Fountain Blood Red to Protest Corruption

It's not the first time Graziano Cecchini has pulled such a stunt.

Graziano Cecchini says the dyes he used are not harmful to the fountain. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

If you visited the Trevi Fountain in Rome last week, you might not have gotten the selfie you imagined.

The historic fountain ran red last Thursday morning after Italian artist Graziano Cecchini poured dye into it. He says the move was an act of protest to raise awareness of government corruption in the Italian capital.

Citing witnesses, the Guardian reported that Cecchini managed to scale the side of the fountain and pour the dye into the water, turning it a deep red. Shortly afterward, the artist was arrested and escorted from the scene by police.

Cecchini was arrested and escorted away by police. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Cecchini told artnet News he felt compelled to act because of what he sees as the degradation of the Italian capital.

“The latest municipal administrations have overlooked every aspect of security, tourism, cleanliness, and transparency,” he said. “It has been a gradual deterioration that Roman citizens have become accustomed to, that is why I decided to shake the sleeping souls another time because there was need, a huge need.”

Italians must not accept the status quo, he warned: “I would like meritocracy to be important again in every field of work, and I would like every Italian not surrender to corruption and the deterioration of their own cities.”

Although Cecchini insists the dye isn’t harmful, authorities temporarily shut off the water on Thursday afternoon to prevent any damage to the monument, which reopened just two years ago after a $2.2 million restoration project.

Police stand by the Trevi fountain in Rome on October 26 after Italian activist Graziano Cecchini poured red dye into the pool, 10 years after he pulled the same stunt. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images.

Speaking to the Guardian, Rome’s deputy mayor Luca Bergamo condemned the stunt. “Actions like this display ignorance and a total lack of civic sense,” he said.

In response to critics who question Cecchini’s methods of raising awareness, the artist said, “To convey my critical message to Roman administrators, I could not have asked the same administrators I wanted to criticize for permission. For me, it was important to express the disappointment of how Rome has become even worse over the last years.”

This is not the first time the artist has dyed the fountain red. He pulled the same stunt a decade ago in October 2007. The following year, he made headlines by dropping thousands of colored rubber balls down the Spanish Steps, another world-famous Roman landmark.

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