For seven days, see Buenos Aires through the eyes of 18 artists

Sooni Shroff Gander

Curator Cecilia Alemani invites people to chart their own paths through 'Hopscotch (Rayuela)’, now on view

From September 6 through 12, Cecilia Alemani, artistic director of Art Basel Cities: Buenos Aires, brings us ‘Hopscotch (Rayuela)’, an exhibition of artworks installed throughout the city for the 2018 Art Basel Cities Week. The lineup includes 18 Argentine and international artists and forsakes a preset path in favor of a self-guided artistic journey through the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Art Basel caught up with Alemani to find out about the program’s highlights, and what it means to use the city as a stage.

Cecilia Alemani, artistic director of the 2018 Art Basel Cities Week in Buenos Aires. Photo by: Liz Ligon.

How did you approach such a large-scale project?

'Hopscotch (Rayuela)' is an opportunity to work with a very dynamic art scene, and to use the city as a pedestal for public works by both Argentine and international artists in unusual locations. While visiting Buenos Aires in 1929, French architect Le Corbusier observed that the Argentine capital was built with its back to the waters of the Río de la Plata, thus consigning the waterfront to mainly industrial activities. This is still very much the layout of Buenos Aires today, with waterfront areas along the river punctuated by abandoned factories, ports, the local airport, and a large ecological reserve built on landfill. ‘Hopscotch’ explores various locales along the waterside, connecting the neighborhood of La Boca to that of Palermo, while intersecting many different venues that were built in the vicinity of the river. I found different locations, including grand plazas, exotic parks, abandoned buildings, museums of curiosity, derelict architectural structures and industrial relics that are typically not devoted to contemporary art. What is very exciting for me is that I can bring my expertise to a much broader, citywide stage.

What will visitors encounter?

From the very beginning, I imagined this program as a dialog, not just as an opportunity to commission new works, but also as a way for the community to discover the city through the eyes of the artists. I wanted to have a variety of experiences, so it’s a mix of time, space, works, and participants. I pushed artists to create works that are different from what they have previously done in Buenos Aires, or elsewhere, before.

Mika Rottenberg. Still from Cosmic Generator, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Can you tell us about the title, ‘Hopscotch (Rayuela)’?

The title borrows its name from the eponymous, experimental novel by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. Published in 1963, the novel follows a nonlinear narrative that can be read in multiple sequences, jumping from chapter to chapter, as suggested by the title, like the traditional children’s street game. As with the book and the game, my art program hopscotches through the city, shaping possible journeys and different paths through urban space, creating unexpected connections between sites and works.

How would you describe the range of the participating artists' approaches?

Many of the artists focus on the representation of bodies, both as tools for performances and collective actions and as a locus for the construction of identities and communities.

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, for example, is creating a temporary pop-up cemetery for the living. Entitled Eternity, it is realized in collaboration with local artists in a park in Palermo. Ad Minoliti’s installation will host a symposium focused on queer theory and feminist art histories. Argentine artist Eduardo Basualdo has created an installation along the Río de la Plata conjuring up a progression of sculptural encounters that will engage viewers in a unique sensorial landscape.

Barbara Kruger. Untitled (No puedes vivir sin nosotras / You Can't Live Without Us), 2018, painted mural, Silos de la Antigua Junta Nacional de Granos, approximate dimensions: 30 m x 68 m.

What else is in store?

The Buenos Aires–based artist Luciana Lamothe is presenting a large-scale sculpture that will function as an extension of its site, evoking a space that is suspended between construction and destruction, present and future, architecture and ruin. The Mexico City–based artist Pia Camil creates environments that collapse the distance between the work and the audience into a shared experience. Both are working within the time-space concept, but approaching it differently.

With regard to the Argentine artists in the program, I wanted to focus on younger artists like Ad MinolitiGabriel ChaileSantiago de Paoli, and Luciana Lamothe because they have had fewer opportunities internationally. I wanted to ensure that there are some surprises.

There are great projects by more-established artists, too, including  Alex Da CorteNarcisa HirschDavid HorvitzLeandro KatzBarbara KrugerEduardo NavarroAlexandra PiriciMika RottenbergMariela ScafatiVivian Suter, and Stan VanDerBeek.

What are your favorite aspects of art in Argentina?

I don’t want to generalize because I believe in a global vision of art, but in Argentina, there’s more openness. My expertise is public art, so I often look at sculptures and installations as a medium, and there are amazing artists using materials to create works that really challenge the viewers. So it’s less about objects and more, I think, about full, immersive experiences that engage the viewer.

Leandro Katz, Alfabeto lunar / Lunar Alphabet, 2018, polished cement and bronze, 27 tiles, each 80 cm x 120 cm.

The exhibition aims to appeal to Argentine and regional audiences, as well as on an international level. Can you tell us how you will connect with all three?

For the Argentine scene, I feel like the artists that we have invited will present some exciting surprises. It’s going to be an incredible opportunity to discover the young art scene in Buenos Aires, beyond the three or four names they already recognize – and who knows, maybe there’s a new rising star among all these artists?

Top image: Barbara Kruger. Untitled (No puedes vivir sin nosotras / You Can't Live Without Us), 2018, painted mural, Silos de la Antigua Junta Nacional de Granos, approximate dimensions 30 m x 68 m. 

About Cecilia Alemani

Cecilia Alemani is the Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director and Chief Curator of High Line Art, the public art program presented by the nonprofit organization Friends of the High Line, in New York City. Since 2012, she has commissioned and curated public art projects on the High Line by more than 200 artists. She was the curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where she organized the exhibition 'Il mondo magico', featuring new commissions by Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi, and Adelita Husni-Bey. Throughout her career, Alemani has collaborated with many museums, institutions, and foundations such as MoMA/PS1, New York; Tate Modern, London; and the Deste Foundation, Athens; and has also pursued more unconventional projects with nonprofits and informal organizations. Alemani worked as guest curator for the performance art biennial Performa 11. She is the co-founder of No Soul For Sale, a festival of independent spaces, nonprofit organizations, and artist collectives which took place at X Initiative in June 2009. From January 2009 to February 2010, she served as Curatorial Director of X Initiative, New York, a yearlong experimental nonprofit space in Chelsea.