Postcards from Naples, Italy: Palazzo adapted to showcase contemporary art

Mimmo Paladino, 2006 rooftop installation at MADRE

The 19th-century Palazzo Donnaregina, referred to as “an example of historical stratification,” was purchased in 2005 by the Campania Regional Government for rehabilitation as a contemporary art museum. Much of the work was completed under the guidance of Alvaro Siza Veira, a Portuguese architect. By 2006, two floors of MADRE – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina – opened to the public. Daniel Buren’s brightly colored and illuminated installation in the entryway of MADRE sets the tone for the contemporary contents.

When we were there this past fall, there was an impressive exhibition of work, “Whisper Only To You,” by a South Korean artist, Yeesookyung. During her residency in Naples, she incorporated pieces of Capodimonte porcelain into the design of her large shapely vessels.

The master potter was trying to create the perfect piece each time, and he would discard even the ones with the slightest flaw. So I chose to create new forms from them, because perhaps, I don’t believe completely in that kind of perfection. To me, a piece of broken ceramic finds another piece, and they come to rely on one another. The cracks between them symbolise the wound.

Yeesookyung, interviewed in The Business Times, 2013

Postcards from Naples, Italy: Guardians of the streets

Navigating our way around Naples on foot offered us ample opportunities to sense those extra pairs of eyes watching over us….

And spotting the statue of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), “Il Sommo Poeta/The Supreme Poet” of Italy, gives rise to his cautionary words so applicable to American politics today:

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Postcard from Naples, Italy: Frisky gods frolicked in the buff

Artemis of Ephesus, Goddess of Fertility, 2nd Century

In the mid-1700s, Charles III of Bourbon (1716-1788), King of Naples, began exploring the towns buried by Vesuvius and combined some of those finds with works of art he moved from palaces in Rome and Parma he inherited from his mother, Elisabeth Farnese (1692-1766), Queen of Spain. His son, Ferdinando IV (1751-1825), moved the treasures into a building that originally was a 16th-century riding school and later the university. Today the structure serves as the National Archaeology Museum or Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (MANN).

The mosaics from Pompeii were my favorite part of the museum, but, unfortunately the galleries containing the largest mosaics were closed temporarily for renovation. No photos appear here of the outside of MANN because it was completely covered by scaffolding, possibly removed by now.

While ancient Romans favored wearings togas, tunics, stolas and pallas, many of their gods tended to frolic shamelessly in a bacchanalian existence, cavorting and coupling in fashions far from puritanical.

This is evident throughout the impressive museum, but even more so in the Gabinetto Secreto, or Secret Cabinet. In this gallery clearly marked with a warning as to its mature content, one finds the more pornographic-seeming artifacts from Pompeii and erotic objects of the Borgia Collection. The only one of the above images shot in the Secret Cabinet is that of the enormously endowed god Priapus, kind of an X-rated scarecrow threatening evil-doers with rape.