Say the word subway and you would think: dirty, dark and rats! But in Naples, Italy, an ongoing public art project has transformed 13 metro stations into works of art, with the most recent on Via Toledo being named one of The Daily Telegraph‘s most impressive undergrounds in Europe.
Under the direction of Achille Bonto Oliva, former director of the Venice Biennale, several stations have been converted into art galleries displaying over 180 works by more than 90 international artists and architects such as Alessandro Mendini, Anish Kapoor, Gae Aulenti, Karim Rashid, and Sol LeWitt. Not only do these stations function as underground galleries, but they are architectural feats that stand alone as works of art.
The latest station, Metro Toledo, which is situated under one of Naples’ main shopping streets, was designed by the Spanish firm of architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca and opened after some delay in September 2012. It was designed around the theme of water and light with mosaics by South African artist William Kentridge and works by Francesco Clemente, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Shirin Nehsat and Oliviero Toscani on display.
MetroNapoli’s art stations make up a decentralized museum that is spread throughout the city. The project makes art integral to the cityscape, and more importantly, accessible to the everyday commuter. Instead of tired eyes gazing wearily at the evening paper, people are given an aesthetically-complex environment to interact and engage with – all for the small price of a metro ticket.