Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Roman Salute to New York Artists ; 'Empire State' Curators Want to Put Spotlight on Wide Range of New Works

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Roman Salute to New York Artists ; 'Empire State' Curators Want to Put Spotlight on Wide Range of New Works

Article excerpt

Exploring the bonds betwen the two cities, the "Empire State" show was conceived as the first in a series of city-themed exhibitions at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

New York's place among the world's most prominent art centers has held steady since at least the middle of the 20th century. Next month, an exhibition about the city's ever-growing and constantly shifting art scene will open in the capital of a much older empire: Rome.

The exhibition, called "Empire State," as New York State is known, features the work of more than 25 artists and opens in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome on April 22, running until July 21. Perhaps the most representative work on display will be Keith Edmier's "Penn Station Ciborium" (2013), a soaring steel sculpture commissioned for the exhibition that imagines a mashup of the former New York landmark and St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

An intergenerational theme runs through the show, paralleling the relationship between the ancient and modern cities, and the Palazzo's neo-Classical galleries will offer a mix of established names and new blood. Long-heralded artists in the exhibition include Julian Schnabel and Dan Graham, and they will be interspersed with younger and lesser-known artists like Tabor Robak and Shadi Habib Allah.

"We're not trying to say these are the 25 best artists," said Norman Rosenthal, one of the curators of the show, adding that the exhibition was not definitive in nature. "It doesn't intend to be a dictionary. It's more like our poem about New York."

The intergenerational element comes naturally, given the curatorial duo behind the show. Mr. Rosenthal, 69, is a seasoned professional -- he was the director of the Royal Academy of Arts in London for more than 30 years -- who is best known for organizing the much-discussed "Sensation" show in 1997

His collaborator, Alex Gartenfeld, 26, plays the role of wunderkind. Mr. Gartenfeld has been, until recently, a freelance curator and an online editor for two magazines, Art in America and Interview, though he was recently appointed curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.

Mr. Gartenfeld said he saw the goal of the show in Rome as no less than "busting open the canon of what a New York artist is."

He added: "Instead of just celebrating a city, I hope it's an exhibition that questions what it is to be an art center today, and what sort of cultural cachet a city wields by having these art institutions. I think a lot of cities, Rome included, are thinking about what it means to be a contemporary art center. That's where empire becomes this very relevant theme."

"Empire State" was conceived as the first in a series of city- themed exhibitions by the leadership of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, which is the largest art venue in Rome. Mr. Rosenthal, who is based in London and sits on the board of the Palazzo, offered to tackle New York as the debut show.

Mr. Rosenthal said that he wanted to avoid a diffuse "biennial syndrome" in the show, while still displaying the diversity of the art scene. "It has had its ups and downs, but I still believe that New York is still the greatest art-creating place in the world," he said. "I'm not just saying Manhattan -- I've also become incredibly familiar with Bushwick and other places. I'd never heard of Bushwick two years ago."

It was precisely that unfamiliarity with the outer reaches of the Brooklyn borough of New York that led Mr. …

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