Interview with Cecilia Alemani, Curator of Frieze Projects and Sounds, Frieze New York

The international contemporary art fair, Frieze New York, returns to Manhattan today with a selection of dynamic presentations from 190 of the world’s leading galleries. Alongside exhibits from galleries such as David Zwirner, Marian Goodman and Hauser & Wirth, the annual art fair hosts an exciting programme of talks and special events. The 2015 edition sees Cecilia Alemani curate the popular Frieze Projects section which features work from Korakrit Arunanondchai, Pia Camil and Samara Golden, as well as Frieze Sounds, a unique art fair component dedicated to contemporary practitioners working with sound. We speak to Alemani about the new commissions on display at Frieze Projects and Sounds this year.

A: Frieze Projects showcases new commissions by artists such as Pia Camil. Can you talk a little about this year’s selection of practitioners and the overall aims of the section?
CA: Frieze projects is the non profit section of the fair, where we commission, produce and present new site specific artworks. This year artists have been invited to create spaces that interrupt the regular rhythm of the fair: mazes and labyrinths where you can get lost, secret rooms, and intimate hideouts are some of the immersive environments created by this year’s artists. Pia Camil, an artist based In Mexico City, has conceived portable environments, or hand sawn ponchos that are freely distributed at the fair and can be worn as scarf, dress, or used as picnic blankets on the grass outside. Its’ a homage to Helio Oiticica’s parangole.

A: Frieze New York will also present a programme dedicated to artists working with sound. In your opinion, why is this medium important in contemporary art today?
CA: Many contemporary artists work with sound nowadays, and additionally there is a long tradition of sound art; just think of pioneers like John Cage or LaMonte Young. Sound art is even more important now as it is often overlooked in the museum context: it is hard to show sound works, and perhaps one might find it a bit harder to grasp because it doesn’t have a visual component. That said, it is important to recognise this wonderful tradition and to give the right exhibition space to it.

A: What can attendees expect from the trio of Frieze Sounds participants this year?
CA: We commissioned three new sound works by international artists Alicja Kwade, Xaviera Simmons, and Sergei Tcherepnin. The three artists are using strategies of collage and assemblage to create new mesmerising works for the fair, although in different ways: Alicja has been collecting excerpts from over 200 movies where the protagonists see or receive a diamond and react to it; Sergei has reworked a number of older piano improvisations that were recorded on tape in a collage, while Xaviera has made a composition that evokes the moment in which multiple languages collapse onto each other.

A: As curator of both Frieze Projects and Sounds, what do you look for when selecting artists?
CA: I look for artists who can think of ways of interrupting the regular rhythm of the fair by inserting new spaces that can offer a different experience. It can be a participatory experience or a contemplative one, but definitely one that is different from what you would normally see in an art fair.

Frieze New York, until 17 May, Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan, USA.

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1. Pia Camil, Espectacular Telón Ecatepec with ceramics (Fragmento 6 I and 6 II), 2014. Hand dyed and stitched canvas. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist, Galería OMR and Blum & Poe