Last June, New York’s Museum of Modern Art bought his “Kiss” for a five-figure sum. His prices range from between €25,000, for private works, and €70,000.
Complying with the artist’s insistence that no objects be produced in connection with his work, the purchase was finalised with a spoken agreement. “There was an orally communicated contract,” Klaus Biesenbach, chief curator of MoMA’s Department of Media, explains. “As a curator you have to remember it – I was very happy I wasn’t alone because I was afraid I was going to forget everything – and you have to follow the instructions. We had 12 people around the table, including a lawyer, a notary, gallerists, curators and members of the conservation and registration departments. The meeting went on for hours.”
Nothing tangible was acquired with the transaction – no written contract, instructions, script, or receipt. What MoMA gained was the right to reproduce the installation forever, and to loan the piece to other institutions. “Kiss”, an edition of four, was also bought by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Fond National d’art contemporain, France; it is now sold out. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is currently in the process of acquiring Sehgal’s “This objective of that object”, and the Tate purchased “This is propaganda” in 2005, for €39,950.
Private collectors have also bought pieces, though, according to Sehgal, they generally enact the situations themselves. One piece, for example, requires a pair of collectors (usually a couple) to host a dinner party. When the main course is served, the first host leaves, followed by the second host a minute or two later. After several minutes, the two return but switch places. As they begin to eat each other’s food, the guests are provoked to ask what happened. The title of the work – “Those thoughts” – refers to the guests’ confusion and speculation.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Also at the FT, a very informative piece by Natasha Degen on Tino Sehgal's "This situation", which I was involved with last year in New York: