Art: Church Burner

An exhibition at Rome's fashionable Obelisco Gallery was stirring up some three-alarm excitement in Italian art circles last week. In a series of lurid, explicitly painted canvases, enterprising Artist Aldo Pagliacci, 38, had set fire to six of Rome's most famed and revered churches including St. Peter's itself.

To Catholic Rome that was a shocker. Critics goggled at Pagliacci's pyrotechnics; the newspapers, wary of violent reader reactions, carried no mention of the opening. But word-of-mouth publicity was enough to make the show a roaring success; within two days collectors had snapped up all...

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