Art Shines in Naples, Italy, This Summer. Here’s an Insider’s Guide to the Fabled City’s Attractions and Diversions
On view: Thomas Dane Gallery, Galleria d’Italia, MANN, Morra Greco, Museo Madre, and more.
Naples has undergone an artistic renaissance of late. Already home to ancient sites around Pompeii, not to mention the enchanting island of Capri, the southern Italian city has recently seen a remarkable transformation from sleepy port town into a premiere cultural destination—not unlike glorious Rome or fashionable Milan higher up the boot.
Ambling through the vibrant city streets, one can feel Naples’s artistic regeneration at every turn. Galleries, museums, and art foundations have popped up everywhere, showcasing a wide range of artistic output, from Greek antiquities to contemporary abstraction.
We’ve curated a list of places to see, stay, sip, and shop.
Amy Sillman, “Temporary Object”
Thomas Dane Gallery
Among the most recent newcomers to Naples is Thomas Dane Gallery. The British dealer’s eponymous outpost opened in 2018—and with sweeping views of the bay, no less. On view now is “Temporary Object,” a solo show of new works by Amy Sillman (through July 29). The process-based American painter’s canvases are on display alongside a series of intimate drawings, offering feasts of color and shape that are buoyantly Matisse-like in their rendering and emotion. Each painting in “Temporary Object” reflects a stage in the development of a work that is never revealed yet offers insight into how to read the painting, as if it were part of a film or storyboard. In this way, these palimpsestic works are akin to Naples and its own layered history.
Mario Schifano, “Il Nuovo Imaginario (The New Imaginary)”
More gestural paintings can be found at the Galleria d’Italia on Via Toledo, where artist Mario Schifano’s “Il Nuovo Imaginario (The New Imaginary) 1960–1990” runs through October 29. The survey presents over 50 works by one of Italy’s greatest postmodern artists. Some of them are reflective of his time as a restorer in Rome’s Museum of Etruscan Art and Archaeological Artifacts of Villa Giulia. Others hark back to his interest in Pop Art, which exploded after he visited the United States in 1963. The interest was short-lived and his desire to examine history through abstraction was rekindled, prompting him to look to Futurism—with its fervent movement, bold forms, and vibrant colors—for inspiration. The exhibition also presents, for the first time, a series of works from the 1970s called “Paesaggi TV (TV Landscapes)” that show Schifano’s attempts to present news and events on canvas.
“Alexander the Great and the East”
National Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN)
The exuberant modern paintings of Schifano and Sillman make for a compelling contrast with the ancient works in “Alexander the Great and the East” (through August 28) at the National Archaeological Museum (MANN). The exhibition—which follows the announcement of MANN2, a new branch of the museum—offers a rich exploration of the Macedonian warrior’s cultural legacy. It was inspired by the restoration of the mosaic from the House of the Faun in Pompeii, one of the most famous from antiquity, depicting the Battle of Issus in 333 BC, between Alexander the Great and Darius of Persia.
The show coincides with “Picasso and Antiquity” (through August 27), in the museum’s Farnese galleries, showcasing ancient sculptures excavated in Rome during the Renaissance alongside intimate works on paper by Pablo Picasso. It shows how the artist’s trip to Italy in 1917—where he visited Rome, Naples, and Florence—had a profound influence on his work.
For a dose of contemporary art, head to the Morra Greco and the Fondazione Donnaregina (also known as Museo Madre), both of which are a short walk from MANN. The former was founded in 2003 by Neapolitan art collector Maurizio Morra Greco. The latter boasts a permanent collection of works by blue-chip names including Richard Long, Sol LeWitt, Olafur Eliasson, and Francesco Clemente and is currently staging a Jimmie Durham exhibition titled “Humanity is not a Completed Project” (through August 5).
Among the plethora of new hotels that have recently opened in Naples, Atelier Inès Arts & Suites in the Vergini neighborhood offers the most intimate stay. Opened in 2021, the design-oriented hotel features just six distinctly themed rooms in a building that dates back to 1900, when it was the site of an open-air cinema and theater. The hotel also displays the work of artist Annibale Oste, from the 1960s on, in the rooms’ interiors.
Another charming hotel is the Artemisia Duomo in the Centro Storico (historical center), just steps from the magical gardens of the Santa Chiara cloisters. Its eight rooms—in addition to four spa suites—are wonderfully named after the female protagonists of Neapolitan baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi’s oeuvre.
For still more storied opulence, head to the Grand Hotel Vesuvio in Santa Lucia, where creatives such as Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky and Émile Zola are said to have stayed on their visits to Naples.
As the art scene of Naples has boomed, so too has its culinary hotspots. Michelin-starred George restaurant, on the roof garden of the Grand Hotel Parker, offers a classic Neapolitan dining experience. Chef Domenico Candela combines recipes from the Campania region of Italy with techniques he acquired in France—amid breathtaking views of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius.
At local favorite Osteria della Mattonella, diners dine amid hand-painted, 18th-century walls with intricately painted tiles. Perfect for art lovers, just-launched Sustanza restaurant sits inside an Art Nouveau setting, across from the National Archaeological Museum, where chef Marco Ambrosino prepares southern Italian specialties accompanied with natural wines.
Naples, in fact all of Italy, is famed for its vintage shopping. Those wishing to partake in the national pastime should make haste to Oblomova, selling a browser’s paradise of vintage treasures, from handbags and jewelry to collectible crafts.
The more luxury-minded will want to head to the Chiaia District, especially Via Toledo, where all the top brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton have set up shop. Or head to Galleria Umberto, where you can peruse high-end Italian retail stores within a magnificent 19th-century neoclassical glass dome and surrounding arcade.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.