In the year of its 50th anniversary, the Guggenheim New York devotes a one-man show to Tino Sehgal. At the age of only 33, he is the youngest artist ever to receive this attention. The Berlin-based artist did already ‘exhibit’ at other renowned institutions, such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago or the Venice Biennial of 2005.
Mr. Sehgal emptied the entire rotunda from all other art and directed two performances there:
The museum’s visitors were accompanied by amateur ‘actors’ or guides walking up the rotunda. The guides introduced themselves with their name and the hint, that this is a work of art by Tino Sehgal. Then they asked you questions related to progress drafted by the artist. After a while of this conversation the first guide handed you over to the next one. The first guide was a child, the next a teenager, then an adult and then an aged person. I liked it – it was a very inspiring experience.
At the ground floor of the rotunda there are two professional dancers Mr. Sehgal commissioned for his performance: In slow motion, they strike erotic poses that derive from historic works of art. This sounds seductive –instead, it is rather hard work for the dancers: The performance starts every day when the museum opens and ends, when it closes. There are several dancer couples, who work in tree hour shifts. I wonder what they do afterwards…
Mr. Sehgal calls his art ‘staged situations’. He does not allow photographs, videos or any written instructions from his performances. One could think this is his protest against the art market, but this is not true. He acts within the art market system, but rejects the idea of a materialized work of art.
You can buy Sehgal’s works at the Goodman Gallery for five digit sums. You will get the right to perform the piece by actors in your place. There is not even a receipt – only an oral contract between the buyer and the artist in the presence of a notary. (You can see another performance now at the New Museum at the Bowery – now ‘owned’ by the collector Dakis Joannou.)
Mr. Sehgal studied economics and dance in Germany, before he became a performance artist. He says, ‘What interested me in dance was, it was a way of producing something and nothing at the same time.’
by Chris Neuschler
Tino Sehgal at the Guggenheim Museum, New York
Through 10 March 2010