Cecilia Alemani is the Curator and Director of the High Line Art Programme in New York. We first met her at Frieze New York, where she curated the Mulberry-sponsored Frieze Projects. The High Line is a beloved New York landmark but is not so well known outside of its home town, so we asked Cecilia to tell us about its reputation as a platform for new artists and a place of discovery for visitors.
The High Line is one of New Yorkers’ favorite places and it has now become a ‘serious art destination’, as the New York Times recently defined it. I like to think of the High Line as a place where nature, architecture, and history meet, and where viewers can discover and experience all multi-faceted aspects of this gorgeous park; with its unique design, its participatory public programmes, and its exciting contemporary art projects.
High Line Art, the public art programme which commissions and produces art projects on and around the High Line, is one of the programmes that keeps the park fresh and new and invites the public to come back several times to see our new installations and performances, and to admire the park from new perspectives.
If you visit the High Line this summer, you will be surprised by the many different projects that constellate the park, its vegetation, and architecture. One project that will accompany the viewer along the entire mile of the High Line is Lilliput, a group exhibition that brings together six up-and-coming artists from all over the world. The exhibition is inspired by Jonathan Swift’s famous novel Gulliver Travels, and functions as a commentary on the common assumptions that public art is usually monumental and large scale.
Lilliput features sculptures of reduced scale and intimate dimensions: some of them are installed along the paths; others are totally immersed in the vegetation. The exhibition is really a treasure hunt for art: the sculptures change according to the seasons and the park itself works as a changing backdrop for them. The artists included in Lilliput include Oliver Laric, Alessandro Pessoli, Tomoaki Suzuki, Francis Upritchard, Erika Verzutti, and Allyson Vieira.
To counterbalance the Lilliputian scale of these works, we installed a monumental sculpture by British artist Thomas Houseago. Lying Figure is a headless bronze sculpture of a giant resting on his elbows and installed directly on the old train rails of the High Line. Surrounded by plants and flowers that seem to be embracing him, the work stands out as our own private Gulliver resting in peace and admiring the surrounding landscape.
Moving north on the High Line between West 25th and 26th Streets, viewers will walk through an imaginary jungle populated by invisible animals: it is a sound piece by Israeli artist Uri Aran, who composed an audio work that surprises viewers walking on the elevated portion of the High Line known as the Flyover. Untitled (Good & Bad) is a sound piece in which a professional speaker reads a list of animals divided into good and bad animals. Some of the good ones are the household cat, the dog, the platypus, the penguin, and the bad ones include the spider, the rat, head lice, the tapeworm, and so forth. Children really love this piece!
Stay tuned for the High Line’s Fall 2012 programme, which will include among many other projects a wonderful site-specific installation by the great West African artist El Anatsui, a large-scale shimmering tapestry made of recycled materials and mirrors along the High Line.
All pictures courtesy Friends of the High Line, 2012.