Tino Sehgal and Gelitin Offer Up Children, Penises, and Whiskey

Challenging the 'object' at the Guggenheim and Greene Naftali

None of this is exactly new. In the '60s, Hans Haacke asked museum visitors to stick votes in a ballot box, and later, Adrian Piper taught people to dance. Still, Sehgal, the control freak, has tried to plug the conceptual holes left open in earlier periods, forbidding documentary photographs, which can later be sold as objects, and catalog essays that frame the event; rather than lamenting the hegemony of the gallery system, or its customary showroom role, Gelitin takes up residence like a messy, demanding guest. Neither eradicates that other contrivance, the "critical object": the piece of writing that results from such works. Sehgal's work will exist in memory but also in text, and the Gelitin situation is even stranger, such that I'm writing about an unfinished sculpture and you're reading about a performance that now survives only in photographs and text.

Sehgal tries to ramp up the Guggenheim with his latest—but no photos allowed.
David M. Heald © SRGF, New York
Sehgal tries to ramp up the Guggenheim with his latest—but no photos allowed.


Tino Sehgal: 'This Progress'
Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, 212-423-3500
Through March 10

Gelitin: 'Blind Sculpture'
Greene Naftali
508 West 26th Street, 212-463-7700
Through February 27

So we're probably just seeing more of that recent cycle in which objects are the enemy and, per Experience Economy theorists, encounters and events are the consumables du jour. After all, you can buy a Sehgal (MOMA owns Kiss; it's just on loan to the Guggenheim). The fate of Gelitin's Blind Sculpture was undetermined as of this writing. Maybe it will be trashed at the end of the show—or end up one day on the block at an auction house near you.

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