Most Art in Naples – or Napoli – is old. Early settlements date back to the 2nd Millennium BC; the middle Bronze Age [that’s anywhere from 1900 – 1000 BC or so I’ve read on Wikipedia]. Perhaps more commonly known for its Roman influences, Napoli also has a rich Greek history and Νεάπολις [ancient Greek for Napoli] actually means ‘new city’. It’s a bit contradictory. The city is known for its impressive collection of ancient Greek and Roman art housed at Il Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (MANN). You’ll find salvaged mosaics and statues from nearby Pompeii and Herculean; both devastated and buried by Vesuvius way back when in 79 AD. To visit the MANN and stand next to towering Roman gods is pretty extraordinary. And if you’re looking for something a little more risqué [aside from all the ‘normal’ nude sculptures!] head into the ‘Gabinetto Segreto’ [Secret Room] on the 2nd floor where you’ll find a moderate collection of erotic items.
But Napoli is still very much a new city. Don’t believe me; check out the Museo d’arte Donna Regina (MADRE). The museum should be a ‘must-see’ for any modern art lover and is one of Italy’s best homes of contemporary exhibits. Go on a Monday as you’ll receive free admission, which could play nicely into your Napoli Artecard 3 Free Admission Challenge [what’s that? Read more HERE!]. Also check out the current exhibits at the Palazzo art delle i Napoli (PAN). The museum rotates contemporary displays and is a self-proclaimed ‘centre for arts and documentation’. The PAN has also curated an extensive library where one can view artistic materials and documentation produced by the Napoli contemporary arts scene. The library is members only access but for local art enthusiast it’s a pretty useful archive.
Traditional vs Contemporary Art in Naples
Below is my photo gallery from both the MANN and the MADRE; equally impressive and distinctive. I enjoyed the museums immensely and, if searching for art in Naples, I can vouch both are worth a visit. And I’m assuming I don’t need to tell you this, but I’ll remind you anyway. Eat some Neapolitan pizza if you know what’s good for you and your belly!