Catching up with Cecilia Alemani

If you’ve ever stood atop NYC’s elevated public park, the High Line, built upon a historic rail line and overlooking Manhattan’s West Side, you’ve likely encountered the hand of Cecilia Alemani and the wizardry of High Line Art. Cecilia is the Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Curator and Director of High Line Art—in short, she curates the public art projects visible on and around the High Line’s 30-foot perch. Cecilia is also curator of Frieze Projects, the annual artists’ commissions of Frieze NY, so in preparation for the fair we were certain to mark our calendars for a timely catch-up with Cecilia.

Artsy: We love High Line Art’s current exhibition “Busted”, with works by artists such as George Condo, Sean Landers, and Goshka Macuga. What was your favorite part about curating that show? And are there any tips you would have for visitors going to see it?

Cecilia Alemani: It was really great to invite contemporary artists to reinterpret such a long standing tradition of civic sculptures and public monuments that have dotted our public spaces for thousands of years. It is fascinating to question that tradition and to see who are today’s heroes and who contemporary artists want to commemorate in a public monument these days. “Busted”[on view April 2013 – April 2014 on the High Line, New York] brings together some of these examples, including a bust of Colin Powell, a bronze sculpture of a cardboard box mask, a giant white marble nose resting on a wheelbarrow, and a human statue. You can download a map from our website with the different locations.

Artsy: What's the one spot that you always bring out-of-town guests visiting New York?

CA: The High Line!

Artsy: Can you offer a few insights or behind-the-scenes tidbits on a few of the Frieze Projects that visitors will see at Frieze NY next week?

CA: Frieze Projects will span from a fully active restaurant where everyday a different artist will cook to a secret bar hidden among the grid of the fair; from an abstract garden made of white, purple, and black flowers to a cemetery where art goes to die; from a series of colorful benches that will function as stages for impromptu performances to a giant fragment of a burned house. Overall, Frieze Projects stimulate many more senses besides the simple act of looking!

Artsy: Can you share any interesting facts about Randall’s Island that you’ve discovered over the past two years working with Frieze NY?

CA: Randall’s Island was called Minnahanonck by the Native Americans, translated as “pleasant waters”.

There is a Fire Department Training Academy on Randall’s Island.

Jimi Hendrix played there in 1970.

Usain Bolt set the then world record in the 100m on the Icahn Stadium track with a time of 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix, in 2008.

The movie The French Connection was shot there.

Randall’s Island is where all Christmas trees collected after the holidays end up, on a giant pile, exactly where the Frieze Art Fair south entrance is.

Artsy: What does High Line Art have up its sleeve for this summer?

CA: Our major summer event is Carol Bove’s commission titled Caterpillar. The installation takes place in a very wonderful location on the High Line at the Rail Yards, the part of the park that is currently closed to the public and runs from 30th street to 34th street. Carol has conceived an installation of seven abstract sculptures that punctuate the wild and self-seeded landscape. Because that part of the park is still closed to the public and will only open in 2014, we are organizing special walks to access the site and to wander around the sculptures in a very magical environment. Sign up online and make sure to reserve your free ticket to visit Carol’s project!

Frank Benson, Human Statue (Jessie), 2011; George Condo, Liquor Store Attendant, 2012; Sean Landers, Pan, 2006; Goshka Macuga, Colin Powell, 2009; Carol Bove, 14, 2013; Carol Bove, Celeste, 2013. Photos by Timothy Schenck, courtesy of Friends of the High Line. Portrait of Cecilia by Tom Medwell, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.