Tino Sehgal is a high-profile artist who recently had a solo show at the Guggenheim Museum. I want to talk about him because he has approached the sale of works in a way that in itself is quite new to the art world and, I believe, is one of the reasons for his success. It is also something you can adopt or use to stoke your own creative approach no matter what level you are currently at in your career.
Tino Sehgal creates what he calls “constructed situations” in which one or more people are performing instructions created by the artist. That means, much like a theatre director, he tells a group of people that he hires to have conversations based on a theme of some kind. In the show at the Guggenheim, you never see the artist, there is no art on the walls, and when you walk in, a small child asks you what you think the word “progress” means. You begin to have a conversation with that person and then you are led to another person who continues the conversation until you reach the end of the ramp at the museum. What the artist has done is train all the actors, so to speak, to ask certain questions to the audience members.
The reason I am using this artist as an example of a new method for selling your work is this: on the sale of his work, he stipulates that there is no written set of instructions, no written receipt, no catalogue, and no pictures. That’s right, he sells his work so that you could, in fact, buy one of these pieces, but there is nothing physical to own, not even a receipt. During the show, there was another piece of his, which was a couple kissing endlessly on the floor of the museum. The two people kissing would do so for two hours at a time, and then the actors were changed. The remarkable thing to me is that the kissing couple piece was owned by MoMA and lent to the Guggenheim for this show! So what I want to examine here is how he sold the work and why it is significant and also important to your process.
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