Il Quartiere dell’arte – the Art District


The idea behind the Quartiere dell’Arte, or ‘Art District’, was to build up a long-term network of cultural and creative identities operating in the Avvocata district of Naples with a view to injecting new life into this part of the city through art and culture. In opening the Nitsch Museum in 2008, the Fondazione Morra laid the groundwork for an art-driven process of renewal wrought by the encounter between the local community and the various cultural and administrative organizations working in the area.

An Art District in the historic heart of Naples must be understood as a project/process grounded in an integrated strategy of promotion and reinterpretation of the creative binomial that consists of the relationship between identity and territorial location. In the current phase, the project is changing in response to new stories of urban regeneration. A prime example of this is Casa Morra, a project for the activation, dissemination, and active protection of one of the city’s largest contemporary art collections, which has been acting as an important cultural vector since October 2015. It is housed in Palazzo Cassano Ayerbo D’Aragona in the part of the city known as Materdei.

The theme of the Art District emerged at a time when the notion of the metropolitan area still lay far off in the future. It is now time to rethink the motto ‘a district becomes a city’ from a different slant, seeing it as one element of a vast area of metropolitan space seeking to become a creative city. This model is found in other European cities hosting areas characterized by a particular dynamism in social and design terms, in a conception of the city as a complex infrastructure capable of producing networks.

The goal over the coming years will therefore be to develop integrated management strategies and good practices within a European network that will find a balance between the conservation of the city’s heritage and its socio-economic development, increasing the competitiveness of the most dynamic and vibrant areas of the city. From this standpoint, art becomes a tool to give new life to abandoned spaces (both material and symbolic), to rediscover their potential, and to involve local people in the life of the community. Better than any other device, a cultural container – a physical and symbolic space capable of hosting and networking knowledge and tools for creative output – can reveal, through action, the genius loci of a specific urban area. On the other hand, it is essential to acknowledge the nature of the city, its protean essence in a constant process of becoming. Ultimately, the Art District was conceived as an open laboratory, an idea that would become one with the entire urban perimeter and the metropolitan city in the making: in other words, an undertaking that proposes an alternative to the canon according to which cities take shape.