Sealed with a Kiss: Tino Sehgal








Guards kissing




Tino Sehgal has established himself as the art world’s foremost maestro of the immaterial. Paradoxically, his work is substantial and substantive, but it is totally without substance. Sehgal (b. 1976), who originally studied political economics and dance, crossed over to the visual arts in 2000. He tackles real issues and evokes powerful thoughts and feelings, but he does so without fabricating any physical object that could be carried away. His acquaintanceship as a dancer is intrinsically linked to his work, creating a linkage between the ephemeral character of his art and the emptiness of the scenario when the performance has finished. In Sehgal’s practice, “a visitor is no longer only a passive spectator, but one who bears a responsibility to shape and even to contribute to the actual realization of the piece.”[1] His art vanishes as soon as it is over, except for the impression that lingers like a footprint on your mind.

The work of the British-born German artist exists solely as a set of choreographed gestures and spoken instructions acted out by performers in gallery settings. Often these actions directly involve visitors who witness them, as in the case of Guards kissing (2002), one of the most representative artworks of Adrastus Collection.

Guards kissing (2002) is a situation which presents a pair of guards kissing every time a visitor enters the exhibition’s venue. This artwork is part of a series, which is interpreted in different variations, whether a couple integrated by a male and a female, two males, or two females. Sehgal’s intentionality with this work was to create an interaction with the visitors, appealing to independent emotions in each spectator. The live encounter comments on different issues, such as whether witnessing a public display of affection was an intrusion of private space. This work also comments on issues around LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights.

Sehgal’s body of work is based on a “no documentation” policy, which means that there cannot exist any video footage or photographic register of any of these artificial situations. Part of the point is to free art from the glut of material overproduction. The criteria also affect the transaction method, since there is not such thing as an invoice or written evidence that the piece has been purchased. The official process for the transfer of ownership happens in a performance itself, where the property’s rights are conferred by the artist itself to the buyer in the presence of a few witnesses who can make a declaration on the deal’s legitimate existence.

On October 11th, 2012, Javier Lumbreras arrived at the Turbine Hall inside Tate Modern, where this event was about to take place. He immediately found himself immersed in Tino Sehgal’s piece These Associations. After a while, Tino approached Javier and started talking. Soon after they moved to a private conference room in the same building where the transaction was witnessed by Stefano and Raffaella Sciarretta (Nomas Foundation, Rome), Maurizio Morra Greco (Private Collector, Naples), Luis Koberg, Julia Grunz, the gallerist Jan Mot and Sabine Breitwieser (Chief Curator New Media and Performance at MoMA). After a colloquial chat among the presents and leaded by Tino, it ended with the actual transfer of rights of Guards Kissing (2002).

Tino Sehgal was born in London in 1976 and currently lives and works in Berlin. In 2012, he undertook the annual commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with the work These Associations, becoming the thirteenth to be commissioned in The Unilever Series. Tino has also participated in Documenta 13 Art Festival with the piece This Variation held at Kassel, Germany. He represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 2005 and has been nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize 2006 and the Preis der Nationalgalerie für Junge Kunst 2007. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held around the world, including at the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Villa Reale, Milan; Kunsthaus Bregenz; and the ICA, London.