Naples' 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries and Museums

Axer / Désaxer. Lavoro in situ, 2015 , MADRE, Napoli – #2
Axer / Désaxer. Lavoro in situ, 2015 , MADRE, Napoli – #2 | Courtesy of the artist and Fondazione Donnaregina, Napoli
Graziano Scaldaferri

Of all the cities in Italy, Naples is one of the best for contemporary art. With top museums and world-class galleries housed in captivating historical buildings and managed by gallerists firmly established in the international art arena, Naples will particularly surprise lovers of Pop Art, Arte Povera, conceptual art, and photography. We profile ten of the best contemporary art spaces in Naples.

1. Madre Museum

Museum

PH MICHELE ALBERTO SERENI
© Michele Alberto Sereni / Courtesy of Fondazione Donnaregina, Napoli
Madre is a top local destination for contemporary art lovers, and one of the best contemporary art museums in all of Italy. The impressive three-storey building that houses the collection is situated in the very heart of Naples’ historical center – a stone’s throw away from the National Archeological Museum – and was renovated by Portuguese ‘starchitect’ Alvaro Siza. Walk through Madre’s large exhibiting rooms and you’ll find works by history’s greatest artists, from Sol Lewitt to Richard Serra, Mimmo Paladino, and Jeff Koons. Despite a troubled history of scarce economic resources which more than once have put this beautiful museum at the risk of closing, the Madre still proudly stands to defend its outstanding permanent collection, and continues to organize a regular program of quality art exhibitions.

2. PAN

Building

Italy, Campania, Naples, PAN museum (Palazzo delle Arti), exhibition by artist Gennaro Regina entitled Lurlo del Vesuvio
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
The Palace for the Arts in Naples, or PAN, comes second only after the Madre among the city’s most prominent galleries of modern and contemporary art. It sits in a refined quarter of the city regularly frequented by art aficionados and fashionistas, housed in a historical 18th century building – Palazzo Roccella – with a 6,000-meter exhibition space. Founded as a center for the documentation of the arts, the venue was used as an exhibition space later on, and does not have a permanent collection.

3. Plart

Museum

Plastic objects can fit in a museum just like a painting or a sculpture, especially if they feature a striking design. In fact, in Naples there is an entire museum celebrating plastic and polymeric materials. The Plart has a unique permanent collection of bags, jewelry, lamps, toys, electronic devices and other ordinary items characterized by extraordinary design, including pieces by Lucio Fontana, Tony Cragg, Haim Steinbach, Verner Panton, and Amanda Levete, among others. The museum also boasts a special multimedia lab which offers fascinating insight into the world of polymers through interactive installations, and produces an intense range of activities aimed at promoting an understanding of how science can be put at the service of art and design.

4. Largo Baracche Art Space

Art Gallery

The Spanish Quarter is an underprivileged area possessing a distinctive culture. Here, between two narrow streets lined with clothing boutiques is Largo Baracche – a small, unimpressive square which holds a secret. Beneath the ground, a series of tunnels originally built as a shelter during World War II has been transformed into an artist-run space, and has built a reputation of hosting intelligent, provocative exhibitions of contemporary art.

5. Galleria Lia Rumma

Art Gallery

An incredibly talented gallerist with an exceptional taste for contemporary art, Lia Rumma’s career began in the 1970s. Ever since, she has worked with some of the most important international artists out there, actively contributing to making their stars shine brighter. The list includes the likes of performance artists Marina Abramovic and Vanessa Beecroft, photographers Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky, and artist Ettore Spalletti, among many others; and she was one of the first to bet on and encourage the talent of Anselm Kiefer, now a worldwide acclaimed painter. In recent years, a branch of Galleria Lia Rumma opened in Milan; but the home gallery in Naples still offers top quality exhibitions – the latest was a solo show of works by internationally renowned artist William Kentridge.

6. Alfonso Artiaco

Art Gallery

Photo- Grafiluce. Courtesy the Artists and Alfonso Artiaco, Napoli, Italy
© Grafiluce. Courtesy the Artists and Alfonso Artiaco, Napoli
Alfonso Artiaco opened in 1986 in Pozzuoli – a small town just outside of Naples – and moved to Naples in 2012. The gallery is now found in larger, picturesque premises of a historical building in Piazzetta Nilo, a lovely but bustling square in the city’s center. Alfonso Artiaco selects talented artists, both Italian and international, working across a range of media from painting to sculpture, photography to installation art. Here, top contemporary artists such as Sol Lewitt, Jannis Kounellis, and Liam Gillick have exhibited their works.

7. Casamadre

Art Gallery

One of the latest additions to Naples’ contemporary art scene, Casamadre is the creation of Eduardo Cicelyn, the former Director of the Madre Museum. Cicelyn is well connected enough in the national and international art arena that last year’s inaugural exhibition could count on works by top Italian artists like Francesco Clemente, Domenico Bianchi, and Michelangelo Pistoletto, alongside international figures such as Jannis Kounellis, Antony Gormley, and Anish Kapoor. The gallery is found in Piazza dei Martiri, one of the most enchanting squares in Naples, in a significant place; in 1969, prominent gallerist Lucio Amelio inaugurated a gallery that made the history of the arts in Naples for many years. Casamadre is open by appointment only.

8. Dino Morra Arte Contemporanea

Art Gallery

Gallerist Dino Morra opened this exhibition space to create a platform for local up-and-coming artists with promising talent. Founded in 2010, the gallery initially showcased a mixture of art and design pieces, but with time, Morra restricted his curation to the best visual artists he could find in Naples and the surrounding region.

9. Andrea Ingenito

Art Gallery

Naples’s art scene has a special relationship with Pop Art, and particularly with the work of its forefather Andy Warhol. A close friendship with gallerist Lucio Amelio brought Warhol to Naples in the 1980s, and the city inspired several pieces of the legendary artist. The best-known of these is arguably the series Vesuvius, a set of paintings depicting the iconic volcano that overlooks the city colored with bold, unnatural tints, as per Warhol’s signature and celebrated style. Andrea Ingenito Contemporary Art gallery represents a selection of works by Warhol and fellow Pop Artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. The gallery’s roster also includes top Italian artists like Alighiero Boetti, Mimmo Paladino, and Mario Schifano.

10. PRAC - Piero Renna Arte Contemporanea

Art Gallery

The contemporary art scene in Naples has traditionally put an emphasis on photography and the Arte Povera movement, neglecting, to some extent, the modern developments of the pictorial arts. The Piero Renna Arte Contemporanea gallery tries to fill this gap. Piero Renna, the architect who inaugurated the gallery, founded his new exhibition space with the support of a more established Italian gallery specialized in pictorial arts: the Forni Gallery in Bologna.

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