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Q&A

Cecilia Alemani Curator, Frieze New York Projects, New York

Milan-born Cecilia Alemani (right) became a curator after finding archaeology to be very much like “digging a hole for three weeks”. After studying for her Masters at Bard College, Alemani curated shows at Artists Space and PS1 in New York before becoming director of public art for the city’s High Line. She now curates Frieze New York’s Projects, aiming to get visitors to explore the rest of Randall’s Island.

Q: For a curator, Frieze Projects must be a bit of a candy store in which you’re the kid – what are the highlights?

A: Naama Tsabar is curating a mini music festival with mostly local female bands, playing on a stage that’s been cut out of the floor of one of the booths. Randall’s Island has a fascinating musical history, in 1970 Jimi Hendrix played there as did Duke Ellington in the 1930s. Argentinian artist Eduardo Basualdo will engage with the sporting side of the island – there are football pitches and a tennis academy here. He’s created a surreal football pitch where the goals are blocked up by a huge sheet of glass so you won’t be able to score a goal.

Q: And you’re opening a hotel as part of the Projects – where did that idea come from?

A: This is a tribute to Al’s Grand Hotel opened on Sunset Boulevard in LA in 1971 by the artist Allen Ruppersberg who rented a house, decorated the rooms and invited guests to create a gathering point for the art community in a city where there wasn’t one. At Frieze, there will be two rooms and a lobby. You can book for the night; during the day the place will become a gathering point very different from the fair. Guests will have to stay the whole night at the fair where they will be served dinner with wine.

Q: We hear there’s an unofficial ferry service on a rickety rowing boat in action – should we practise our strokes?

A: Marie Lorenz [bottom pic] makes boats out of driftwood and stuff she finds on her excursions around the little shores and islands of the East River here in New York, and she will be taking people out to parts of the island that they wouldn’t see. When you’re out there you feel that you’re in the middle of the sea. She’s the captain of the boat, she has a rowing assistant but you will have to row too.

Q: You’re also in charge of the public art programme on the High Line – are you pitching Frieze Projects at the public or at curators?

A: The High Line is very different to Frieze, which is 99 per cent for an art audience. The High Line has 5 million visitors a year so I’m trying to think of what we can do for people who aren’t coming for art. What I’ve come to love about the High Line is that whatever you think about displaying a work and what it might achieve, you’re always wrong. For the curator, public art is almost an opportunity to stop thinking and just see what happens. That’s the beauty of it, you’re providing an encounter for people who aren’t expecting it.

Q: Is it the job of Frieze Projects to upset the commercial apple-cart of the fair a little?

A: Frieze Projects is actually completely separated from the fair, it’s part of the not-for-profit foundation. The island is quiet and bucolic and then the fair lands like a spaceship. I’m interested in thinking of the location of the island, responding to that rather than thinking about the commercial side. It’s important to commission works that probably wouldn’t be for sale. We’re not interested in commissioning a painting but in performative things. You couldn’t really sell these things: they’re about experience.

Birthday bidders

Hong Kong [auction]

Est-Ouest Auctions30 May to 1 June

When Takashi Seki founded Est-Ouest in 1984, it was the first auction house in Japan. Today the venture has a satellite office in Hong Kong and conducts five art sales annually in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore ranging from contemporary art to Chinese antiques.

At the end of May, founder Seki takes the gavel as Est-Ouest celebrates its 30th anniversary with a three-day auction in Hong Kong. “Tokyo used to be an art capital in the 20th century, but it’s since been replaced by Hong Kong. It’s important to be at the centre of the market, which is why the anniversary auction is here,” says Seki.

On offer are 500 works by post-war luminaries including Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein, and Asian contemporary stars such as Takashi Murakami and Ji Dachun. The centrepiece is impressionist painter Marc Chagall’s “Maries Devant un Bouquet de Fleurs,” which Seki expects will fetch up to HKD$3.5m (€327,000).

The highlights:
Yayoi Kusama
“Infinity Nets”, 2004 Estimate HKD$2m-$3m (€187,000-€280,000)

Marc Chagall
“Maries devant un bouquet de fleurs”, 1978 Estimate HKD$2.5m-$3.5m (€234,000-€327,000)

Alfred Sisley
“Les Oies”, circa 1885 Estimate HKD$650,000-$950,000 (€61,000-€89,000)

To the letter

Global [books]

Thomas Girst’s The Duchamp Dictionary is a neat, handy, handsome and digestible way to take a Quantum Leap into the career, practice, persuasions and inspirations of the artist considered more than any other the most influential of the 20th century. His work wiped out much received wisdom and laid the foundations for a lot of the good and bad, the accessibility and the irresistible market forces, that are stock characters in today’s art world. Fittingly for the form, while the Frenchman found language to be “an error of humanity” and “a great enemy”, with typical perversity, he loved dictionaries. With Duchampian illustrations by Luke Frost and Therese Vandling, this will encourage further reading.

Show starter

Global [books]

Here’s a thing: how do you edit a book about editing, choose a thing full of choices, curate something on curating? To give you a clue, “exhibition maker” and writer Jens Hoffmann has arranged his book, Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art, thematically rather than chronologically and his selections of scene-changing shows span exhibitions mounted in public spaces (inSITE, San Diego and Tijuana), those curated by artists themselves (Damien Hirst’s Freeze) and the unstoppable rise of the biennale (Venice has a lot to answer for).

Despite the title suggesting razzamatazz, the contents are sober, thorough and the writing is rigorous and refreshingly jargon-free. A little more reaction to the shows Hoffmann recalls would have been welcome, as would an itchier adjectival trigger-finger, but these are small gripes about a book that bravely accommodates so much, so skilfully.

Well hung

Gallery

.M Contemporary
Sydney

Being a gallery owner wasn’t always the plan for Michelle Paterson, a South African-born, Sydney-based art collector. She spent a year organising ‘Lots of M’, a successful project of pop-up exhibitions and seminars across Sydney, and last August Paterson opened .M Contemporary in the city’s Woollahra art district.

“My goal was to create a space where new collectors can feel at ease and engage with artists,” says Paterson, who runs .M Contemporary with the help of gallery manager Louise Rush – who joined from London’s Hamiltons Gallery. “We organise group exhibits for emerging artists we discover at graduation shows and independent studios, and we always try to have a mix of Asia, Africa and Australia,” adds the gallerist whose aim is to increase the exposure of young Australian and international artists on the local market. To date, .M Contemporary has shown mixed media by Lyndi Sales, who represented South Africa at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, and more recently a group show of street artists Morley, Jaz and Slinkachu.

In July, the gallery’s upper level will open as a new space dedicated to emerging artists. “In Australia, Freya Pitt, Marta Ferracin and Jacobus Capone are ones to watch,” Paterson adds. mcontemp.com

Q&A

Li Zhenhua Curator, Film Sector, Art Basel, Hong Kong

Art Basel Hong Kong is getting even bigger for its second edition this month (15-18 May), introducing a new film section featuring work by and about artists. The exciting programme is being curated by Chinese multi-media artist Li Zhenhua, director and founder of the Beijing Art Lab, a platform for promoting new media art. The response to the first year’s show has been positive; organisers say the film section has received more submissions than the far more established Art Basel Miami.

Q: What types of film will be in the new sector?

A: I have seen very interesting works in a variety of styles, for example, animation, documentary, narrative films and some really experimental films. Our time limitation, however, will not allow for anything too long.

Q: Where will the filmmakers be from?

A: More than half of the participating galleries at Art Basel Hong Kong are from Asia, so we have more applications from this region than elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean they’ll only submit Asian artists’ works; some will also submit pieces by international artists. I don’t want to focus on a particular geography. I want to look at the context of why this work should be shown in Hong Kong.

Q: Is new media art growing rapidly in Asia?

A: A lot more than before. I think Chinese artists have adapted to this new art form and they’re making pieces with a variety of tools. For example, a lot of artists are using mobile phones to make works and many people are using animation as a way of expressing themselves. The digital revolution has impacted the whole of society. That’s our situation in China.
Art Basel Hong Kong runs 15 to 19 May

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