For our 2019 ‘Friends and Family’ issue, we asked eight families—from multigenerational clans to collaborators who lean on each other like kin—to share what they’re giving and asking for this holiday season. Contributing editor Karin Nelson sat down with each group to paint a picture of their relationships and what they’re getting up to this year.
Back in the early ’80s, when Alba Clemente, a costume and set designer, arrived in New York from Rome with her two little girls in tow, she was met with a loft in lower Manhattan that was bare save for a mynah bird. Her husband, the artist Francesco Clemente, had figured it would distract them from not having any furniture. “It shit everywhere,” recalls Alba, laughing. Nonetheless, the young parents ended up creating a magical home, full of art and friends who would drop in unannounced for Alba’s famous home cooking. “I think I’m a basic Italian cook,” she says. “But if you read Warhol’s diaries, I pass for a great chef!” Julian Schnabel made their dining table, Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring helped with the Halloween decorations, and the girls—Chiara and Nina—were in the middle of it all, falling asleep each night to the dull roar of the downtown art scene. “It’s amazing we turned out okay,” jokes Chiara, a filmmaker who now has two little girls of her own, Alice and Gaia. When Alba’s twins, Pietro and Andrea, were born, the family left the loft—now Francesco’s studio—and moved into a townhouse in Greenwich Village. With few rules and no curfew, the four kids were free to come and go, but mostly they stayed put. “Our place was where everyone wanted to be,” says Pietro, who, like his brother, works in production. Such is still the case: They all try to gather for Sunday dinners—Nina, a chef, makes the trip from upstate New York, where she lives with her daughter, Indigo. “It’s nice to still have the family around,” Alba says. Even so, she admits to running off every summer to Italy and India. “It’s also healthy to occasionally get away from them.”