What do Mafia bosses, slot machines, precious works of art and prison bars have in common? For Gioacchino Campolo, a whole lot. A former mob kingpin with close ties to the De Stefano family of the Calabrian Mafia, Campolo was widely known for his ill-gotten gains off slot machines, and his undying love for precious artwork.
Campolo’s reign as ‘The Video Poker King‘ came to an end in 2009 when he was arrested on a strain of criminal charges that included funding Italy’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate. Two years later, he was convicted and sentenced to 16 years behind bars.
In the meantime, authorities seized €400 million worth of assets from Campolo’s estate, including more than 100 precious works of art from some of histories most famous painters, like Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico.
Slot Machines Fund Artwork Addiction
During his leadership as an Italian mob boss, while Campolo was tampering with slot machines to amass his fortune – a fortune that helped him acquire luxury homes all over the world, in places like Milan, Paris, Rome and Taormina – he was lining the opulent walls of those stately manors with priceless artwork; the one thing he seemed to have an insatiable weakness for.
Art Returns to Art
For two years following Campolo’s conviction, the works of art were safely stowed away in a bank vault. Then in 2013, the culture ministry convinced local authorities and anti-Mafia prosecutors to stage a special art exhibit entitled ‘Art Returns to Art‘.
The National Archaeological Museum in Reggio, Calabria, which had been closed for the last four years for renovations, was to host the event.
At the time, Reggio’s Provincial Councilor for the Arts, Edoardo Lamberti Castronuovo, lauded the event for its unique historical value. “Apart from its important artistic value, the art show is extra precious because illegally obtained cultural heritage is being returned to the public,” he said.
The exhibit of illegally acquired masterpieces included 15 paintings dated between the 16th and 19th centuries. A throng of 20th century paintings were also on display from the collection, including pieces by Italy’s leading artists, Lucio Fontana, Antonio Ligabue and Luigi Veronese.
Among the most famous in the collection are Salvador Dali’s ‘Romeo and Juliet‘, and Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘Mannequin‘.
Priceless Artwork Permanently Reinstated
Another three years have past since the artwork was temporarily displayed for all to enjoy. Local officials, convinced that the dark corner of bank vault is no place for such marvels of history, have persuaded the state to permanently release 125 pieces from the stored collection.
The artwork will be displayed at the Palazzo della Cultura in Reggio until November, where Councilor Lamberti Castronuovo says they will become a “symbol of a heritage restored to the community.”