Gallerie d’Italia, the new museum in via Toledo: “Caravaggio’s masterpiece at the Banco di Napoli”

Gallerie d’Italia, the new museum in via Toledo: “Caravaggio’s masterpiece at the Banco di Napoli”
Gallerie d’Italia, the new museum in via Toledo: “Caravaggio’s masterpiece at the Banco di Napoli”

The works in via Toledo 177 did not stop even during the pandemic. And the most realistic hypothesis wants them to finish no earlier than November. Then a few weeks to fix the set-up and at the beginning of 2022 the Intesa Sanpaolo Culture Project will have a new headquarters in Naples for its Galleries of Italy, replacing Palazzo Zevallos di Stigliano. And the Martyrdom of Saint Ursula, Caravaggio’s last masterpiece, will have a new place of honor among the Intesa Sanpaolo collections, those already known to the public and those preserved up to now elsewhere or in warehouses due to lack of exhibition spaces.

The ongoing intervention on Palazzo Piacentini, former headquarters of the Banco di Napoli, in via Toledo, is the new enterprise that Intesa Sanpaolo has entrusted, as already for the museums of Milan and Turin, to the architect Michele De Lucchi, protagonist of the Italian design and architecture of the last decades.

His project, while respectful of the architect’s most valuable inventions Marcello Piacentini (who built the building between 1936 and 1939), interprets those spaces by making the building a museum in the most modern declination and interpretation of the term: a cultural center. Where the beauty of the artistic collections coexists with a free use of spaces otherwise off limits.

Like that super-panoramic terrace on the fifth floor, where the view extends from the Gulf, with the structures of the Port, to San Martino. There, where there was the Banco di Napoli guesthouse, De Lucchi designed the restaurant (to which not only museum visitors will have access) with an entrance facing the street.

And as for the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan, the care of the catering will not be left to chance: contacts are underway, in recent weeks, with important Neapolitan chefs, so that the restaurant can also represent a quality presence. Let’s stay with the food: on the ground floor of Palazzo Piacentini there will also be the cafeteria, with attached services for fast food. And it is always on the ground floor that the exhibition itinerary will begin among the artistic treasures of the Group and the scenographic suggestions designed ad hoc for the installation.

“We are expanding the spaces and therefore we will be able to have a greater number of works exhibited – the director of Gallerie d’Italia recently explained. Michele Coppola – here we will have new works from the core of Intesa Sanpaolo’s 20th-century collections, and from the core of archaeological finds. “Attic vases and artifacts from Magna Graecia, for the most part.

“A new stage for temporary exhibitions, concerts and cultural initiatives” reads the banners that cover the scaffolding of the works. Those billboards wink at amazement, but do not tell the project. They do not say that those almost 10 thousand square meters of halls, corridors, ambulatories, entrances, passages, exhibition spaces (much larger than those of the nearby Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano) will offer spaces conceived as open and walkable, at the service of an idea of ​​culture that dialogues with the territory: and then the environments destined for didactic activities multiply, and for workshops for school pupils (segment in which the activities of Palazzo Zevallos were already of the highest order).

Here is the Hall on the ground floor, or the one of the Banco di Napoli assemblies, opening up to musical events planned with the conservatories of Campania (a relationship born years ago). The Salons, in fact: the triple height one, concluded by a skylight that illuminates the entire environment, and the Assembly Hall on the second floor entirely covered with precious marble (in what was the representative area of ​​the BancoNapoli) will divide the heart of the permanent collections and the cultural proposals of the temporary exhibitions.

The adaptation from banking to museum functions does not actually concern the entire building: the new museum of the Gallerie d’Italia will be on three levels (ground floor, first and second floor, plus the restaurant on top of everything) while two other floors of Palazzo Piacentini will remain used for banking services, functionally separate from the museum. And the balance in the relationship between the furnishings and the architectural container could only pass through an extraordinary creativity, that of the architect De Lucchi. Which also dealt with the dense urban fabric of the city in the project. With whom the lighting designer measured himself, but in terms of lighting design Pietro Palladino.

Intesa Sanpaolo wanted a professional in the lighting of monuments and prestigious sites, and chose Palladino who, for one thing, in Milan – where he lives and works, took care of the lights inside and outside the Duomo. His intervention will concern the interiors, the exhibition spaces and the facades, so that they have a strong identity that is emotionally significant for visitors, but also for the Neapolitans and for the many who continue to call the Piacentini building “the Banco building. of Naples”.

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