Christoph Büchel’s wreck returned to the city of Augusta where it will stand as a memorial

Words by Alessandra Bellomo
April 23, 2021

During the last Venice Art Biennale in 2019, the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel exhibited Barca Nostra, the wreck of a fishing vessel aboard which more than eight hundred Libyan migrants drowned in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015. Conceived to expose the migrants’ crisis in Europe, the object raised a lot of controversies exhibited without any explaining tag nearby the Arsenale’s cafè, almost as a like-catching set. 

The wreck rightfully belongs to the Sicilian city of Augusta, which was granted its custody and then loaned the vessel to the artist. The city is one of the first landing points for the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, and it is proud of this reputation. 

The controversy went on when, after the exhibition, the ship remained for months in the Arsenale despite all the Biennale staff’s requests to the artist to dismantle it. 

Finally in these days, after a series of disputes between the artist and the vessel’s shipping company that damaged it in the first place, the wreck was returned to Augusta. After a period of maintenance, it will become a monument to human rights, as a memorial to the victims in the sea in a setting regarded as the “Garden of Memory”. 

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