Video Feature: Brett Littman, Curator of Frieze Sculpture Speaks at Rockefeller Center

Brett Littman, Curator of Frieze Sculpture Speaks at Rockefeller Center – April 2019

On April 25, 2019, New Yorkled had the chance to get a first look at the newest offerings at Rockefeller Center with their presentation of Frieze Sculpture. On hand was Brett Littman, Curator of the installation, kind enough to share some words about the artistic installment at this midtown Manhattan landmark. We were fortunate enough to capture him answering questions.Hopefully soon, we’ll be able to post videos featuring a walk-through of the location.

Below the following video we posted at youtube would be a transcript.

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Introduction:

Brett Littman, Curator of Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center

Hi, I’m Brett Littman, I’m the director of Noguchi Museum and the curator of Frieze Sculptures 2019. In January of this year (2019) I was asked if I would do Sculpture Park for Frieze Sculpture. It’s the first time here in New York and I was given carte blanche to put sculptures all over Rockefeller Center campus including inside the buildings and outside the buildings.

We’re standing right now outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza and this is the largest array of sculptures that I’ve placed on the campus. My thinking about this space was that this was the most public space. I really wanted to create a sculpture park that was human scale so a lot of the choices that I made are about sculptures that are actually much smaller than what usually is placed here. I also wanted to create something where, you might look down and you might look up, also to think about the verticality of space but also the horizontality of the space.

Question: Asked if the artists and works commissioned for this particular exhibition?

When you work with an art fair, the way that it works is that the gallery showing you the art fair is allowed to submit a proposal to me. We did an open call and I was able to collect about 40 or 50 applications and I went through…working, thinking about the space…thinking about what I wanted to do, thinking about Noguchi’s piece. There’s a very famous Frieze by Noguchi that’s here called ‘News’, that’s a permanent installation at Rockefeller Center. I began to kind of put together a group. I can’t say that this year it’s thematic in any particular way, although there are some ideas that run through and actually one of the things that really comes through for me is that this is a fraught political time and many artists are thinking about that so you’ve got these Paulo Nazareth pieces that are icons of the African American civil rights movement; I have Ibrahim Mahama which is the major commission that I did for the project with these flags that are made in Ghana by immigrants. In some ways the show is not a political show but it is about our times and it’s about how sculpture can reflect our times.

Question: Asked to expand upon the flags encircling the rink.

Ibrahim Mahama is an artist from Ghana and he often works with jute sacks that are used to carry cocoa beans. Obviously those jute sacks can be reused to carry other things and he has done very large architectural installations using those jute sacks. During the site visit at Rockefeller Center I asked whether or not I can use the flag poles and I was very surprised when they said yes. I was thinking about artists that use flags, there are quite a few in contemporary art and Ibrahim was interested in working with Frieze and working with Frieze Sculpture and I was able to commission that project and so these were all made in Ghana over the last several months and shipped to New York and we installed them last night.

Question: Asked about what this installation would convey?

I think this is about his critique of global capitalism, the idea of the spice trade, the slave trade, the idea of, even immigration in Africa. So it represents quite a few things, of course also it really changes the landscape because this is a 192 flags of every country in the U.N. and by taking them all down and replacing them with these jute sack flags, it’s a very profound change for the Rockefeller Center Site.