Eat, drink, chat, make music and play with the puppets - welcome to the world of Rirkrit Tiravanija. From the artist who brought you a soup-filled canoe at the Venice Biennale, cooked free Thai cuisine at numerous museums and galleries, created a public-access rehearsal stage with electronic instruments at the Whitney Biennial, and directed a public puppet show at Münster's 'Sculpture Project', now comes the return of the 'Untitled' tea-tent from 1992.
If you are fed up with the art world, bored with the white cube, fed up with the gallery assistant, and need an escape from the world at large, then Tiravanija invites you to meet for a free cup of tea at his orange tea-tent. When Tiravanija initially installed the tent, he was there to serve you fresh brewed tea and chitchat. Now, however, we will make your cup from a large selection of teas imported directly from Tiravanija's native Thailand. He was actually born in Buenos Aires and brought up in Thailand, and lives today in New York and Berlin. In his work, Tiravanija expounds his origin and disrupts the traditional expectations by physically involving you, the visitor. When looking at the present work, you are uncertain about the exact moment in which the tea-tent is no longer a tea-tent but rather a piece of art, and whether the piece of art would stop being art to fulfil its function as a tea-tent. Tiravanija's tea-tent challenges and possibly provokes the commercial gallery and the rules of economic exchange. Walking into a gallery and hanging out in a tea-tent with free drinks is quite against our perception of the commercial space where works are for sale, and it almost shocks us. In a service economy like our own, where we have to pay for everything, receiving something free shocks us. However, Tiravanija rewards you for making the effort to commune to the gallery and see his work.
Often, Tiravanija even takes the time to come directly to you, as during his show at the Centro d'Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. Here, he arrived at the airport with a bicycle, bearing a backpack filled with food and a portable gas cooker. It took him five days to get to the museum. For every lunch and dinner he would stop and cook for people that he met on the way. "My work is less about things in the gallery and more about the people I've met, had a conversation with, talked about things with, and looked at things with." (R. Tiravanija, in: 'Conceptual Art', London 1998, p.419.) The present work is subtitled 'Cure', which possibly refers to the tea-party as a healing process. However, in this case, Tiravanija presumably also believes the tea-tent to be a cure for the elitism of the art market and a way of bringing art to the public. Tiravanija's work is, thus, about reformulating the perception of art, interacting with people, questioning our position and inherence in the world, and to have a good time while doing so.