Greek and Roman ruins, Medieval castles, Gothic and Baroque churches, Bourbon palaces, and palazzi from every era of history, Naples has been described as an open air museum. To walk the streets of Napoli, is to take a journey through time.
With such an enormous wealth of ancient monuments, it’s no surprise that we confront Naples past at every turn. But it might surprise you to know that modern and contemporary art have also been carefully woven into the fabric of the city.
The Art Stations originated from a project formulated by the city government with a view to making the urban area’s public transport centres more attractive and giving everyone a chance to get an up-close look at prime examples of contemporary art. Under the artistic direction of Achille Bonto Oliva, both the interior and exterior portions of the stations received over 180 works of art by 90 of the best-known contemporary artists, comprising a unique example of a decentralised museum which is spread over the entire urban area; a museum which, instead of concentrating works in an enclosed space, permits the dynamic fruition of the artists’ creations over the course of an open artistic itinerary. The implementation of these same stations, delegated to the expertise of internationally-recognised architects, represents an important turning point in the renewal of numerous areas of the urban fabric.
With 12 art stations and counting, we visited MetroNapoli’s Università Station at Piazza Borsa shortly after it opened last year. The 15th station on Line 1, it is part of a major expansion of the line that includes the Toledo station which is scheduled to open later this summer. Having missed the sneak preview of it during Maggio dei Monumenti, we decided to head up to one of MetroNapoli’s first Metro Art Stations, Salvator Rosa.
Named for the Neapolitan painter, poet and printmaker active during the Baroque era, the Salvator Rosa station opened in 2001. The work of the Milan based Atelier Mendini design firm of Alessandro and Francesco Mendini, it is the product of a collaborative team of artists and architects, a fusion of Naples past, present, and future.
To the rear of the Via Salvator Rosa exit is an outdoor escalator that blends in beautifully with the landscape. A terraced park with gardens and play areas, along with several stairways, the escalator connects residents with the various levels of the park and to the apartment buildings above the station. Also part of the project was the creation of murals on several of the apartment buildings such as Gianni Pisani’s mosaic, The Train Leaving the Island (2000).
An ancient Roman bridge was incorporated into the design, as was a Neoclassical chapel.
Behind the chapel there is a sculpture garden, while Mimmo Paladino’s monumental iron Hand (2000) sits on a terrace above.
Combining art with recreation, Salvatore Paladino and Mimmo Paladino designed a games terrace one level below the top of the escalator while Alex Mocika created the recreational sculpture, Atom (2002).
On the roof of the station is an Atelier Mendini metal and colored glass spire. A second spire was erected at the station’s second exit (Via Battistello Caracciolo/Via Girolamo Santacroce) when it opened in 2002. Mimmo Paladino’s rain and golden rays can be seen on the building behind the spire, which was the home of the composer of ‘O Sole Mio, Giovanni Capurro.
Completely transforming the area around the station, Alessandro Mendini said the result was,
A global aesthetic work that profoundly involves the citizen, and turns their daily life into a stage.
This is one stage, one park, and one open-air contemporary art museum I will be happy to return to.