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Rome

>>>ANSA/ Calabrian museum displays art seized from mafia

>>>ANSA/ Calabrian museum displays art seized from mafia

Four floors of culture, with space for young artists as well

13 Maggio 2016

Rome, May 13 - There's a De Chirico in the kitchen; two Fontanas in the livingroom; and Guttuso, Dalì, Sironi and Carrà work bundled by the dozens on the walls of the house, even in the bathroom. There are even more parked in the other residences of a mafia boss in Reggio Calabria, Rome, and Paris. It's not that videopoker kingpin Gioacchino Campolo was an art expert - in fact, more than once he fell into the trap of counterfeiters. He bought artwork in order to invest the enormous fortunes he accumulated from his slot machine exploits. But usually he also chose the best. Seized by the authorities, his incredible collection has now been given back to the public as part of the grand Palazzo della Cultura (Palace of Culture), now a museum that opened its doors in Reggio Calabria on May 7, with treasures taken from the hands of the mafia. "This is the State that we want," said provincial councillor for culture and legality, Eduardo Lamberti Castronuovo, smiling proudly. For Lamberti Castronuovo, together with provincial president Giuseppe Raffa, this palace, which is publicly owned by the region, is a little bit like a dream come true. They were the ones who asked a judge to entrust the mafia boss's seized artworks to the public good. A few years ago they had already managed to have some of the artworks put on public display in an exhibition in the region's national Archaeological Museum, the same museum that houses the famous Riace bronzes. Here, among the rooms of a former 1920s-era orphanage that has since been whitewashed and polished by a team of volunteers, the seized canvases have finally found a permanent home. The works are protected by security systems worthy of a fortress; in fact, the security system was the most costly investment of the project. And now, they have been given back to the community, under the guardianship of the superintendency for culture. It's a challenge that was won, but that's not all: within the 4,000 square metres of the structure whose windows face Mt. Etna, an entire floor is dedicated to the breathtaking "San Paolo" collection. The collection is made up of a series of Russian icons and the St. George in the Field of Gold originally attributed to Antonello da Messina, whose scratched face is typical of many depictions of saints in a land that was targeted by Turkish invasions. This collection, which was curated until 1995 by Francesco Gangemi, pastor of the local San Paolo Church, had been waiting for some time to find a suitable home. Among its works are one-of-a-kind treasures such as a Madonna with Child by Italian Renaissance painter Cima da Conegliano, and even a sketch by Raphael. Lamberti Castronuovo is also proud of the space given to 250 local artists who have been invited to display their works. "The only requirement is that (the artists) change the works frequently, at least every six months," he said. The library will host the Calarco donation, a collection of rare 18th- and 19th-century books of inestimable value. The palace's top floor is dedicated to bergamot, one of the region's typical products. "It's a museum within a museum, displaying the machines and illustrating the extraction of this citrus fruit that is now experiencing a newfound popularity, having become important even for gastronomy," he said. In addition to the 20th-century works taken from the hands of the mafia boss, among which there's a beautiful De Chirico, there is also a section of works from the 17th- and 18th-centuries. "It's a sign and a warning, the symbol of the recovery of heritage given back to the community," Lamberti Castronuovo said, adding that entrance to the museum is free of charge. At the May 7 opening, there was a group of young guides on hand to offer tours in English, French, Spanish, German and Arabic, showing that art and culture are the strongest weapon in the fight for legality.

© RIPRODUZIONE RISERVATA

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