March 5th, 2010 marked the opening of a new Modern Art venue in the City of Naples, the Novecento a Napoli Museum (20th Century in Naples). Set in Castel Sant’Elmo on Vomero hill, the musuem follows a long list of impressive contemporary art venues that have exploded onto the scene in recent years – the products of a cultural renaissance that has been sweeping the city since the mid 1990s.
Since the temporary installation of Mimmo Paladino’s “Salt Mountain” in Piazza Plebicito in 1995 for the inauguration of the Art in Piazza project which is now in its 14th year, modern and contemporary arts venues have been popping up all over this ancient city. Leading the charge was one of Naples’ most prestigious museums, the Capodimonte Museum. Perched atop Capodimonte hill, it was the first museum in the city to dedicate a space entirely to contemporary art. Opened to the general public in 1996, the collection on the third floor of the museum itself dates to Alberto Burri’s donation of his “Grande Cretto Nero” in 1978. Today it is comprised of works by Italian and international artists including Jannis Kounellis, Hermann Nitsch and Andy Warhol.
From the top of Capodimonte hill to the bowels of the city, the next major contemporary art initiative went underground. Between 2001 and 2002, the Comune of Naples joined forces with MetroNapoli to create “Metro dell’Arte” – the Naples Metro Art Stations. Directed by Achille Bonto Oliva, the project has made contemporary art accessible to the general public and at the same time has beautified Naples’ transportation centers. Still ongoing, the initiative has thus far installed 180 major works of contemporary art by 90 well known contemporary artists inside and outside of eleven of MetroNapoli’s Line 1 and Line 6 stations.
The trend didn’t stop there and by 2007, Naples was home to five more contemporary arts venues. In the historic ditrict, MADRE Museum opened its doors with a permanent collection of works by artists such as Mimmo Paladino, Jannis Kounellis, Francesco Clemente, Jeff Koons and Anish Kapoor. Now a world class contemporary arts center, it features permanent and historical collections and hosts temporary exhibits by artists from around the world. On the other side of town in the Chiaia district, PAN Palazzo opened its contemporary arts documentation and research center with spaces for temporary exhibits. Adding a new perspective on contemporary art, the Santa Maria la Nova complex inaugurated its Museum of Contemporary Religious Art in December 2006. And in 2007 Fondazione Morra – Institute of the Science of Visual Communications opened the Hermann Nitsch Museum on the hill overlooking Piazza Dante and more recently a new exhibit space in Palazzo Ruffo di Bagnara in Piazza Dante.
The most recent additions to Naples’ contemporary art scene have been the PLART Museum and “Museo del Ghiaccio.” Located in the Chiaia district, PLART, Plastic + Art + Research + Technology is dedicated to preserving and restoring works of art in plastic. The “Museo del Ghiaccio,” Ice Art Gallery just off Corso Umberto in the Pendino district purports to be the first permanent ice sculpture museum of its kind in the world.
And now the Novecento a Napoli museum has arrived, filling a huge gap in Naples’ contemporary art history and paying tribute to the most important Neapolitan modern artists of the 20th century. Curated by Angela Tecce, the director of the Castle Saint Elmo Complex with the collaboration of Nicola Spinosa, the museum is the product of the joint effort between instiutions, galleries and private citizens to create a collection of 170 works from 90 (primarliy Neapolotian) artists working between the years 1919 and 1980.
With the addition of Novecento a Napoli to Naples’ pedigree of over 30 art museums, the entire span of Naples’ art history is now completely represented. From the Frescoes of 1st century Pompeii and Herculaneum to Caravaggio’s Baroque to modern and contemporary art, and all movements in between, art of all ages now have a home in this ancient, yet modern city.