Dr. Vicky Kynourgiopoulou, professor of Archaeology and Museum Studies at Arcadia University – Italy programs, has curated the exhibition “Art in Motion – Terrorism perspectives”, where the students of the Spring 2012 “Museum Practices” class displayed their art-works. The exhibition took place on the 17th May 2012, at the former slaughter houses in Rome, now part of the Roma Tre University premises.
Vicky kindly asked me to write a few lines on the relationship between Mafia and art. I want to share it with you and I want to thank “dr. K”. and the students and for their creative work!
“Recently the news reminded us of how the mafiosi are also art-lovers. But it is just another big lie about the Mafia. Because loving art is very different from spending loads of recycled money on some expensive masterpieces and jamming them one on top of another in a big villa. Journalists found no better word than kitsch to describe the villa (in Italy) that police confiscated from the camorra boss Nicola Schiavone or the other villa where the police arrested the other important Mafia boss, Giuseppe Polverino (in Spain). The famous Italian comedian Antonio Albanese, who played the role of a mafia-friendly local politician in the movie Qualunquemente, once told that the villa they chose as a set had been confiscated from a real local ‘ndrangheta boss in Calabria; it was so kitsch that the production had to remove some pieces of art from the set, because it was far too excessive to seem real.
There is one word to explain the total disconnection between personal taste and art: beauty. In the famous movie “I Cento Passi”, the antimafia activist Peppino Impastato, looking at the landscape around Palermo, tells his best friend: “we should remind to the people what beauty is all about, and help them to recognize it and to defend it. It’s Beauty that is important; everything stems from beauty”.
Before art, beauty in Italy has always been represented by the landscape, which is still, in many corners of this nation, a masterpiece of harmony. The Tuscany Hills represent the perfect mix of nature and hard human labor. Landscape is part of the Italian identity, from the Alps to the Sicilian islands. The Italian landscape has always been considered an important part of Italian cultural and artistic patrimony.
Any individual who is particularly sensitive to beauty, and therefore to art, would never think of destroying the perfection of the Italian landscape.
Unfortunately however, the Italian Mafia, with the support of corrupted Italian politicians, has added to the continuous destruction of the Italian landscape for the last 40 years. Despite citizen protests, organized crime syndicates have facilitated the building of illegal buildings on Italy’s most beautiful hills and coastlines. They usually operate either through their own building companies or by facilitating and favoring corrupt building companies to work by providing them with forged building permits authorized by the local government. Often the presence of organized crime is only an excuse to justify the immoral act of corrupt local administrators and public officials, as the mafia is a contagious mind – set.
The Valle dei Tempi of Agrigento, the Calabria coasts, Ischia island or the enormous Villaggio Coppola on the coast between Napoli and Caserta provinces are a few examples that remind us that organized crime is not a devotee to beauty or art”.