Interview with Curator Natasha Roberts, NYC

Natasha Roberts, pictured with Portrait of Warren Buffet by Federico Solmi.

Tell me about the curation behind the Central Park Tower: Horizons show, and how it was brought to life in the tallest apartment in New York City.

Central Park Tower: Horizons is a group exhibition inside the world’s tallest primarily residential building and the western hemisphere’s second tallest building, second only to One World Trade, which I learned was an intentional gesture.

The first time I visited to survey the space and develop a visual-theoretical concept, after being invited to curate the penthouse, I was predictably stunned by the views. As you enter the residence, you are facing the Observatory, where floor-to-ceiling windows beckon you towards the best views of Central Park one could ever imagine. You take in the details, trees, the reservoir, then take a wider lens, contrasting buildings and lots of brick in various tones, bridges, the mountains of Pennsylvania to the west, the great bend of the Hudson River, the Long Island Sound, and even helicopters flying at a lower height – and that’s just one room! The penthouse has 17000sqft of 360-degree New York City views and includes the world’s highest private ballroom and balcony at the very top.

As you can see the literal curvature of the Earth from the penthouse, I find that it gives one the feeling of almost being able to see over the horizon from a vantage point like no other, an expectant energy. This was the inspiration for the exhibition and my feelings about the artists who graciously accepted my invitation to participate in the exhibition. They are seven international artists at various career stages, whose work greatly interests me and also stimulates the viewer via diverse theoretical concepts, including architecture, social values and, last but not least, incredible techniques.

I had a total of 2.5 weeks to curate and install the exhibition, the fastest timeline I’ve ever worked on for such a large-scale project, but I had a very organized plan and an extremely competent team, so everything went almost seamlessly. We couldn’t be more excited to share these works and the Horizons experience with collectors.

“Montreuil Series” by Bianca Abdi-Boragi, courtesy of The KNOW.

The exhibition appears to be visually stunning, with the artworks enhancing the already beautiful space and views. Could you provide me with some information regarding the featured artists, the displayed pieces, and how they complement each room? 

 There are six female-identifying artists out of seven NYC-based international artists featured in the exhibition because it is my intention to hold the representation of women and cultural diversity at the forefront of my curatorial practice.

I was fortunate to invite a group of colleagues that I’ve built personal relationships with over the years in New York, each of whom I’m inspired by. They’re talented creatives at varying career stages, with unique backgrounds ranging from self-taught emerging artists with “past design lives” to Ivy-league art MFAs and fellowships. They’ve been celebrated via international exhibitions, and residencies, acquired by art renowned institutions, and commissioned by global brands such as Nike, Longchamp, LaDurée – hence the expectant energy I mentioned before – I expect each artist to continue to soar and inspire as they always have.

In the Grand Salon, we have the “Montreuil Series” by Bianca Abdi-Boragi (b. France),  a polyptych depicting orange and pink-lavender gloves, which the artist shared was inspired by the Montreuil flea market in Paris, exploring social themes of labor, consumption, creation, magic, body choreography, and North African culture. Sitting across the room is Vicky Barranguet’s large-scale energetic abstraction “Morning Dive” which mimics and faces the eastern sunrise.

In the dining room, we also have two works from Barranguet (b. Uruguay)  titled “Blue Chemistry III + IV.” These diluted acrylics on canvas works offer calming fluidity and fuse the tones of the internal and external environments: greys and browns of the skyscrapers and buildings, and a range of blues matching the skies, glass-paneled skyscrapers and waterways, as well as sweeping gestures, curves, and angles reflecting a range of design elements and light fixtures around the dining room.

A range of works from Verdiana Patacchini (b. Italy) are on view in the penthouse, from the large-scale abstraction in the family room and polyptych series in the primary bedroom to her sculpture of a female bust in the library, a recognizable figure frequently seen in her contemporary romanesque works. Also in the Library, you’ll find Bridgette Duran’s (b. United States) “Molecular Science,” an abstractionist representation of energetic frequencies in a nod to New York City.

In the main hall gallery, we have three more abstractionist works, speaking in conversation through the tones and lines of New York City: Kamiesha Garbadawala (b. Jamaica), Vicky Barranguet, and Lindsey Brittain Collins (b. United States).

Kamiesha’s “Shards of Glass” is one of four works exhibited which depict her signature use and transformation of light, and her emphasis on metallics and texture. I very intentionally placed her works in spaces where they would be exposed to light at various degrees and angles, offering unique experiences of the paintings and their evolving moods as daylight passes and fades to night. “Shards of Glass” is juxtaposed with Vicky Barranguet’s “Yards of Love” and “Megalith (Hudson Yards)” by Lindsey Brittain Collins.

Lindsey Brittain Collins’s multimedia compositions are inspired by personal observations and even incorporate her own architectural photography in the exploration of concepts including construction, urbanism, and more specifically the evolution of our city. In exhibiting ‘Megalith’ here, Lindsey proposes the idea of these two of the city’s most notable recent developments in dialogue with one another, emphasizing superlative architecture. Hudson Yards has the highest observation deck in the western hemisphere, the Edge, and this penthouse, as you know, is the highest private home but it also has the highest residential balcony and ballroom in the world.

Last, but not least, we have two portraits of media moguls by Federico Solmi (b. Italy) in the media room: “Oprah Winfrey as Cleopatra” and “Warren Buffet as Court Jester.” Reconfiguring historical narratives across eras, Solmi endeavors to create artistic commentary which disrupts the mythologies that define our societies. His portraits depict figures who appear to be scanned into a game engine, the artist offering dystopian depictions of social icons and criticism of new technologies.

This project was very unique for me because it challenged me to curate with a “corporate client mandate” so to speak but with the mindset of an individual collector who may be stepping into their potential home. I took color and texture cues from the interior finishes, like wallpaper and paints, and also endeavored to select works that told a story in alignment with one another, and as a part of the sensory-spatial experience of this one-of-a-kind space. The furniture staging company provided a basis for placement, but they also added design objects post-art install, to complement the works, a finishing polish to our overall visual collaboration.

“Morning Dive” by Vicky Barranguet, courtesy of The KNOW.

Do you have any other projects coming up you would like to share? 

In the meantime, I’ll be working on an art x sustainability project launching on Earth Day at Oculus World Trade Center with visual artist Jeff CHiNGLiSH Wang in partnership with Art To Ware, sponsored by ChaShaMa. In August, I’ll also be curating the first-ever open call group exhibition at Ki Smith Gallery. I’ve just re-curated the penthouse for phase II of Horizons through October 2023, including Minku Kim, Kamiesha Garbadawala, Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinère, Dylan Reitz-Cruz, Bridgette Duran, Vicky Barranguet and Verdiana Patacchini.

“One Day Series” by Verdiana Patacchini, courtesy of The KNOW.
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The press release and the photographs are courtesy of the gallery and the artists.

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