Naples Art Subway Stations
Naples is a city of a thousand faces. Above ground, the hustle and bustle of its erratic and frenzied daily rhythm while below ground, an unexpected beautiful, comfortable and functional environment. The city underground system has been indeed converted into an eclectic contemporary art museum with the installations of some of the most famous artists inside the subway stations.
The project has been supervised by Achille Bonito Oliva, a well-known art critic and curator: the “art subway” as Mr Bonito Oliva declared himself “wasn’t about decorating the architecture, it’s about enhancing the space with the works of artists called on to dialogue with the space”. Each artist has been working shoulder to shoulder with prominent architects from all over the world to transform utilitarian spaces mostly designed for their efficiency into captivating places and redevelop the surrounding areas. The Naples Art Subway Stations, divided between the lines 1 and 6 of the underground network, feature more than 180 artworks created by 90 international and local artists: “monuments to innovation” to present the city of Naples and its urban contradictions from a different perspective.
A unique necessary challenge in a moment of financial difficulties for Naples, to decongest the city’s unmanageable traffic and to reduce traffic jams through the development of the subway system but, also essential to give the city a new lease of life. The cultural renewal of Naples is the landmark of the art subway, introducing the artworks of famous contemporary artists to people who would normally avoid academic art venues.
The project is “the result of a political, cultural choice” as Mr. Bonito Oliva said, to transform Naples into a more international city, redefine its spaces and open it to the world: Mr. LeWitt was among the first international artists to create artworks for the Materdei station together with the designer Karim Rashid, who was entrusted with the University of Naples station where he used a variety of materials and psychedelic patterns, to create a unique colourful underground environment. The Toledo station, considered as the most beautiful of Europe by the Daily Telegraph, was designed by the Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca with works by William Kentridge (the mosaic in the atrium depicting a parade of distinctly Neapolitan characters and ancient myths) and Robert Wilson (an art installation called Relative light made with light panels). The astonishing escalator to reach the lowest lever alone is worth the price of the ticket.
It has not been as smooth as it seems. Naples has a unique volcanic and hydrogeological condition that needed to be considered during the construction of the each station. Moreover the excavations have unearthed several archaeological artefacts, including boats dating back to Roman times, that have been removed, restored and sometimes incorporated in the design of the station itself. The project is still a work in progress with few stations left to be built to link the underground system with existing railway lines, the port and the airport to create a more efficient transport system.
It goes without saying that Neapolitans are proud of the art subway since it gives a different idea of the city Naples. And what about tourists? They finally have the chance to move around the city on a subway, like any major metropolis, enjoying at the same time a bit of contemporary art by simply using the tube station tickets!