The Napoli NinetyNine Foundation is an institution formed for the purpose of promoting, nationally and internationally, a new image for the city of Naples. Committed to the conservation and furthering of the cultural heritage of Naples, the Foundation communicates through the visual arts. Humanistic/scientific disciplines, mass media, music and cinema. Within this framework, a unique collection of posters has been commissioned “as a contribution towards the cultural image of the city” to stimulate support for the awareness of the cause. Twenty five posters, each designed by an internationally-famous graphic artist and each bearing the words of our campaign.
One of the Foundation very first events, the poster exhibition Venticinque Manifesti per Napoli, Alan Fletcher curator of the project, shaped our way of looking at Naple’s as an indivisible heritage, a fusion of its art and its surroundings. Through this exceptional exhibition of 25 artworks, Naples is seen through the eyes of some of the greatest graphic designers since the second world war and is today perhaps even more topical than it was 30 years ago. The 25 posters were shown in Naples, Rome, Paris, Los Angeles, Dundee and Lahti and the exhibition won first prize as the foremost piece of social graphic work at the 1987 Biennale in Lahden. This collection of posters can be seen as the contribution of artists who, like scholars versed in a classical tradition, develop contemporary depictions of more ancient times that still remain topical and very much the Naples of today: its architecture, its poetry, its music, its earthquakes, the pollution, and Vesuvius…. Together these designers – Allner, Ash, Bass, Blackburn, Cerri, Chermayeff, Confalonieri, Edelmann, Federico, Fletcher, Folon, Francois, Glaser, Gonda, Henrion, Hillman, Igarashi, Kurlansky, Lupi, McConnell, Milani, Paul, Pericoli, Schwartzman and Vignelli – somehow create a greater movement, by which they present a unique image of the city for the rest of the world. What is remarkable about this whole project is not just the prolific number and enormous talent of the designers who participated, but also the fact - worth repeating ad infinitum! – that they undertook the work for free and yet re-created the image of this seemingly flawed, if not completely destroyed, city. And they did it not only for the city itself but also for the Naples Ninety-Nine Foundation.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Walter AllnerFondazione Napoli Novantanove
A red Gothic rosette in an alternating positive-negative configuration is set on a white background; the N of Naples is in green, formed by two acute triangles that strangely resemble the new Alitalia aircraft logo. So the issue of the image of Naples and the city is framed very precisely, for reasons that we should seek to divine: Naples does not have an image that represents it so obviously that it becomes a metaphor of the city.
NAPOLI (1985) by Stuart AshFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Ash offers a Corinthian column, the kind found in the tomes of academia, a Hellenistic-Roman capital, duly contour-cut against a grey-beige background, with a yellow transversal slash and a script in "Roman capitals" set vertically on the right. The idea is therefore to represent the south, specifically the South of Italy, and not with a Greek image but with the Roman kind that is mediated by architectural features and in general by academia. Naples stands not only for the entire south but also for Italy; the transcription takes up the thread of a post-Bauhaus aesthetic.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Saul Antonio BassFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Saul Bass decided to use the name Napoli but chose not to represent the city within the culture of classic or post-romantic characters. Instead, he opted for a city bursting with dreams, a city projected towards a positive future, which here becomes a positive myth. The image of a flower that must blossom and the colours, red, green and blue are symbols of earth, volcano, sky and sea.
NAPOLI (1984) by Bruce BlackburnFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Bruce Blackburn has created a poster that fully belongs to European culture: Blackburn is American but with his piece creates a tribute to Naples filtered through Paul Klee and certain Parisian graphic designers of the post-war period. Letters again, this time painted like metallic negative characters on packing crates. The letters, in Roman capital style, except for the "A" which is a triangle and the "O" which is replaced by a heart, are placed higgledy-piggledy against the black background, echoing the post-Klee graphics by which they are inspired. The poster seems to say that Napoli blooms and develops with colour and joy, despite the black background.
NAPOLI (1985) by Pierluigi CerriFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Pierluigi Cerri divides the frame into two areas, the lower one as if it were the base of a book of matches, and the upper part intended to symbolise the uncertainty of the space of Neapolitan culture. This part in fact represents the cardboard matches, which also form the "background" printed with an old nineteenth-century image redrawn en plat and reduced to various tones of grey with a few red elements. We see the Neapolitans in the foreground, the sailing ship and then Vesuvius itself flashing red in the centre, reflecting tongues of fire on the water. Naples burns, Naples becomes the space for a myth – that of Neapolitan songs that end in ashes. But there is another fundamental aspect to this very intense poster, and it is precisely the knowing connection between the Dadaist cultural model on the one hand – the matches, the pop art magnification like a piece of Oldenburg, and the critical use of the nineteenth-century myth of the city.
NAPOLI (1984) by Ivan ChermayeffFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Ivan Chermayeff gives us a volcano quite different from that of Folon; this is a collage volcano, a neo-Dadaist volcano showing the artist's sharp awareness of modern western graphics and painting. So we have the torn paper forming the black mountain and the white cloud with tricolour blocks representing ash and lapilli, and finally in the middle a roughly etched crayon pattern to create the smoke from the crater; the artist is well aware of artistic trends on both sides of the Atlantic and exploits them for his own visual invention.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Giulio ConfalonieriFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Giulio Confalonieri conjures up a fiercely critical picture of Naples; a very different Naples, one that we don’t wish to see, but which is unfortunately a reality today. Others have perhaps commented through metaphor, but Confalonieri constructs a metonymic argument, suggesting that Naples runs the risk of becoming an anonymous American metropolis, a city of skyscrapers. Only the names written in red marker preserve the memory of those places of dreams: Vesuvius, San Gennaro, Santa Lucia and Maschio Angioino.
NAPOLI (1984) by Heinz EdelmannFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Heinz Edelmann, well known for the Anglo/pop art language of Yellow Submarine, has instead aligned his language to neo-expressionism. In his picture he breaks narrative continuity by inserting something unexpected: the great white cloud acts as a "negative" to the green foliage of the "pine tree" and is presented as a balancing point of the ensemble and the site in which we realise we are faced with a game, a play on the image; this is not a panorama but an edited view: the trunk of the tree is suspended against the pale background of the sky, which, if we look closely, envelopes a hole within which the upper part of the pine tree hangs. Naples, in other words his pine tree – is it all a deception? Certainly, but the poster also shows us the graphics narrative aesthetics in an auteur poster.
NAPOLI (1985) by Gene FedericoFondazione Napoli Novantanove
This work features an ancient mosaic, a detail, and then on a foreshortened and chiaroscuro Naples we see a script reminiscent of a display case from last century. A sober "aiuta" (help) is etched in mosaic on the cheek of the frantic-looking mask. Here too we see the idea of the ancient, of the Roman world, a civilisation that characterises not only Naples but our entire culture. The idea of the mask, and therefore the theatre allusion, alludes also to another myth, one that is specific to the city: that of stage narration.
NAPOLI: a statement against pollution (1984) by Alan Gerard FletcherFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Alan Fletcher, another Pentagram mainstay, also focuses on script; but in his poster it is expressed in a complex way: along the bottom the following wording appears on one continuous line: "a statement against pollution" together with the text common to all the other posters: Let's see how the poster opposes pollution: "Napoli" is in coloured block capitals, the city vibrant in the colours of its script; but it's as if it were stained. And it is – the entire sheet is shot through with heavy opaque black spots, huge water droplets on a coloured image on a white background. So, back to the beginning, it is certainly positive and highly effective. In short the graphics aesthetic, which is the design symbolising the city, ends up being obliterated by the stains, and therefore by pollution – and not just in the environmental sense. It is something more pervasive and potentially more negative, perhaps in a spiritual rather than a material sense.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Jean-Michel FolonFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Jean-Miche Folon is another renowned graphic designer whose reinvention of the image of Naples revives the myth of Vesuvius the Great Exterminator. But in this case he exorcizes it through a now familiar style of script that evokes childhood, memories of early beginnings; a refined handwriting to the watercolour that makes the eruption a toy-like display. The wording "Napoli 99" appears at the top in the kind of typescript used for stamping wooden crates. It appears as a blank negative in contrast with the brush strokes. Within the image the background is skilfully used to portray the shards of rock and the eruption issuing from the cone at the centre.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Andrè FrancoisFondazione Napoli Novantanove
André Francois has created a poster that is both a story and an image pun: a lion as Napoleon with his bicorne hat, and this same hat as Vesuvius in eruption. The lion, drawn as though an illustration for children, has his tail in the air and above it appears the wording "Napoli". Between the "L" and the "I", are the letters "eon", making the Italian word “Leone”. An animal with no symbolic link to Naples, on the shores of an unlikely flat sea with no rocky coastline, signifies not so much the city or its culture, but rather the power of the image game; a power that the very narrator can assume.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Milton GlaserFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Milton Glaser His poster has a charm infused with history; it is a layered image, almost as if the artist wanted to demonstrate his already well known ability to synthesize American and European culture; as if he wanted to show how one can grasp the sense of a city through its literary myth, the dream of a distance that for a foreigner is more difficult to cancel. The background consists of coloured drips on pale yellow paper, giving a psychological suggestion of the narrative situation. In the centre is a Vesuvius that instead of expanding in eruption, seems to emit a kind of comet tail. Here we have joy and fear together and the death of Naples; but it is behind the Vesuvius-comet.
NAPOLI (1986) by Tomàs GondaFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Also Tomás Gonda uses letters – letters as images, to tell us of Naples, its sun and its sea. His work emphasizes the passion for the contrast between black and the beloved colors. In fact the printed anonymous letters are black while the artist's hand tract is highlighted in color and stops on the positivity of Naples, made in the work through the bright pastel colors of the sun and the sea of the city.
NAPOLI (1984) by Frederick Henri Kay HenrionFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Henrion comes from British culture but has a different perspective from the Pentagram group. In fact the image that he creates for Naples seems wholly new from every point of view. Looking closely, it is like an informal landscape painting. Above this there is a group of letters in free-fall, some of them fragmented, in slightly faded tones ranging from purplish go to dark blue and one in washed-out orange. The broken letters are framed against the horizon. Above them are two butterflies frozen in flight, one white and one yellow, surely symbolic colours. The butterflies are suspended amidst a kind of join-the-dots latticework pattern that spells out the script "Napoli", somewhat like handwriting on a roller coaster at sunset. Here is a Londoner who, unlike the others, is not content to merely exalt the graphics aesthetic, but invents a scene, inside an almost neo-surrealist space, where the ruins of letters signal the city’s current crisis and the white dotted line pattern with the butterflies hints at some kind of nebulous redemption.
NAPOLI (1986) by David HillmanFondazione Napoli Novantanove
David Hillmann, also of Pentagram, sets the name of the city in a striking white negative against a warm grey background but with an added element. Instead of the “O” of Napoli, what we see, superimposed with a shadow effect, is a no-entry sign in red and white, a road sign that excludes cars and motorbikes. It is perhaps an allusion? The chaos of the city ?
NAPOLI (1985) by Takenobu IgarashiFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Takenobu Igarashi is the last of the foreign graphic designers to offer an image of Naples. In some ways he can be grouped with the other three Italians, Vignelli, Cerri and Confalonieri, who interpret the city with the same approach, i.e. with quite marked critical intentions, a propensity to reject, to protest from the inside, with differing but always evident attitudes. Igarashi’s Japanese culture can be seen, especially in the use of the triple-toned, mottled, black background as a setting; on the one hand "earthly" and on the other, "heavenly". Upon this is a lump of something that could be paper or coal, a scrunched black core dotted with the letters of Napoli, printed on cards and set in a collage arrangement.
NAPOLI (1985) by Italo LupiFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Italo Lupi uses an ancient image, an image of Pulcinella from 1840: before him, as if formed by joining the red dotted lines of a drawing, we see Benedetto Croce, the philosopher of idealism. Amidst contradictions emerging from Totò and from Eduardo, we have here a poster that seeks to recount the philosophy of Naples, i.e. the totality of its "culture".
NAPOLI (1986) by Mervyn KurlanskyFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Mervyn Kurlansky also from Pentagram, uses the Napoli script, this time against a black background. The letters carry the traces of coloured or spraycan writing, in mainly blue and reddish tints. They represent the dimension of collective action and in some way the "violation" of the image of the city. So here it is not a question of Neapolitan Graffiti, but an image of city marked by modern media usage.
NAPOLI (1985) by John McConnellFondazione Napoli Novantanove
John McConnell of Pentagram has produced a simple and effective poster: the script has the allure of the ancient, the curious appeal of a fragment, of a piece of image with an archaeological connotation. This impression is confirmed by the letters, as if they were pieces of architecture themselves, fragments of an ancient text, partly ruined on the ground. The script associates Naples with the ancient, on the verge of collapse.
NAPOLI (1984) by Armando MilaniFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Armando Milani produces a remarkable piece. He is an Italian who comes from Albe Steiner and the Umanitaria school and its culture. He later moved to New York, where his work changed radically. The poster is one of his newest ones, set against a blue sky. It resembles a soap powder advertisement, except that here the laundry consists of cropped coloured letters, harking back to the post-Bauhaus and 1930s style letters, hung from the clothes line with wooden pegs. In short, a Naples to put out in the sun and dry, letters as found objects, the disorientation of the letters hanging from the line, the colours of the letters pealing with joy.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Paul ArtFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Art Paul’s creation seems very different, breaking away from the recording and direct transformation of characters. It is though we are inside a theatre of the image of Naples. There is a stairway, arches, a lion in marble, a terracotta pitcher, apparently not Western but more Islamic in type, and a sprig of foliage. All this, a tribute to déco culture, makes the poster a piece of a certain ", precisely because it is not immediately readable, and a way to communicate new content, a different story about the city.
NAPOLI (1984/1986) by Tullio PericoliFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Tullio Pericoli, a graphic artist and painter influenced by Klee and psychoanalysis: his Naples is a collage of vague memories, rendered with his usual refined lines. At the top is the castle, then come Vico, Scarlatti, Benedetto Croce, Pulcinella, Salvatore Di Giacomo and Vesuvius followed by a beach dotted with sheets of paper that morph into sails in the sea and appear lower down again as a thicket of leafy vegetables resembling the sea. Pericoli wants to define "his" appropriation of Naples, reinventing it within his own well known "writing"
Neapolitan Gestures No. 3 "BEAUTY" (1984) by Arnold SchwartzmannFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Arnold Schwartzman, a London native, here homes in on the graphic tradition of Germanic culture: a violet background, the magnified image of a hand and a sneering "Smorfia” face. Between the finger and thumb is a painted nineteenth century view in miniature with a smoking Vesuvius. In the centre of the frame in white cropped negative is the script "Neapolitan Gestures No. 3, Beauty”. The piece seems to attempt to construct the image of a "character" of the city. Beauty and superstition; this idea in the end hits the mark because the observer will recognise a sense or logic within the image, but will also perceive the artist's detachment and non-participation in the story; what we see instead is the gesture and elements of the image, but never a clear and direct view of the city.
NAPOLI: see Naples and die (1984) by Massimo VignelliFondazione Napoli Novantanove
Massimo Vignelli has a poster in shiny black on a matt black background; at the top is the script "Napoli” in large Roman capitals that resemble the Bodoni font. In the centre is the gaze of perhaps a Smorfia face, in any case within those cultural coordinates. Beneath in small white italics, on two lines are the words "vedi Napoli e poi muori” (see Naples and die) and lower down again, hanging by a cord like a Dada mobile, are the good luck symbols of the “horned hand” of the Smorfia and the little red coral horn.