Naples Art Galleries and Museums
Naples’ Surging Modern Art Scene
Italy’s southern city offers an eclectic array of contemporary galleries and modern museums sure to impress art aficionados.
On my various visits to Naples, I was surprised to discover that the city of Naples has a fast-moving and exciting modern art scene—and that it has been going strong for decades.
“Naples was one of the first cities in Italy to take an interest in contemporary art,” says Laura Trisorio, who runs one of the city’s most famous galleries—Trisorio—founded in 1974 by her father, Pasquale. “Almost all the most important artists on the contemporary art scene have passed through Naples.”
Outdoor Urban Gallery
More recently, in the mid-‘90s, visionary and popular former mayor Antonio Bassolino instigated and invested in a number of projects promoting the city’s affinity with modern art. One was to turn the very central Piazza del Plebiscito (Italy’s largest piazza) into a combined pedestrian space and a spectacular open-air art gallery. Every year at Christmas, the grandiose square hosts installations inspired by the city and crafted by the likes of Michelangelo Pistoletto, Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt and, most recently, Jan Fabre.
When Rebecca Horn filled the central square with shimmering light rings and cast-iron skulls in 2002, locals visited at all hours of the day and night; minimalist sculptor Richard Serra’s giant spiral made out of curved steel plates allowed people an intensely and unexpectedly private experience in a very un-private space.
Underground Subway Art
The new and ever-expanding metro system has also played its part in the city’s growing artistic significance, and since 2001 has become a captivating showcase for modern art courtesy of installations, sculptures and other works by top artists Mimmo Paladino, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Joseph Kosuth and Sandro Chia, with the stations themselves designed by Gae Aulenti (who designed the Musée d’Orsay museum in Paris) and Atelier Mendini.
The latter is behind the station called Salvator Rosa and is a particularly successful example of the subway art project. The stop emerges out onto a piazza that used to be surrounded by a series of decaying high-rise blocks with no green areas. Now it has a landscaped garden, plenty of free-standing sculptures, a steel and glass spire and even some Roman ruins, and locals hang around where before they used to flee. Another new station designed by Anglo-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor is due to open in 2010.
The Palazzo Donnaregina, just steps away from the National Archaeological Museum, was spruced up by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza and opened as Museo Madre in 2005.
Its four floors offer about 4,500 square meters (14,800 square feet) of exhibition space lined with contemporary art installations or paintings made expressly for the venue by the likes of Francesco Clemente, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons and Sol Lewitt, and a collection of works that are on loan (in some case long-term) by the likes of Damien Hirst, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol.
Past temporary shows held here have celebrated the work of Piero Manzoni, Robert Rauschenberg and Georg Baselitz. In the summer, the massive internal courtyard (which is used for installations year-round) hosts a series of night-time concerts, plays and dance shows.
Via Settembrini 79. Tel. +39-081-1931-3016. Admission: Free on Mon., €7 (about US$9.80), free for children under 6. Hours: Mon., Wed. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. open until 12 a.m. www.museomadre.it