Byline: Blake Gopnik
What if Rembrandt made soup? Rirkrit Tiravanija challenges audiences by serving them dinner.
Michelangelo worked in fresco and marble. Rembrandt preferred oils and etchings. Rirkrit Tiravanija--who just might be in their league--has his own trademark art supplies: curry paste and lime and, more important, the audience that eats his food.
His latest show just opened in New York, and one of its major works is a $1 bowl of soup served by the artist to anyone who wanders in. His art isn't in the soup itself but in the social interactions it triggers. It's about "ourselves in each other's company, eating," says the exhibition statement. It expands "our ideas of sculpture to include even our digestive tract."
No, it's not April 1 yet. Rirkrit really is a celebrated figure, winner of all the big prizes in this country and major shows from Paris to Bangkok. (Rirkrit--who is 49 and goes by his first name--is from Thailand and lives there as well as in New York and Berlin.) "I think he's made us rethink everything about art and about experiencing art," says Rochelle Steiner, dean of the art school at the University of Southern California.
Ten days before the opening, Rirkrit is in the gallery, Gavin Brown's Enterprise, contemplating his plans for it. He says his work is about "resisting expectation and being open to the everyday--which is about the unexpected." He's turning the building's private kitchen into a public soup station. And he's designed a plywood structure, set inside the gallery's soaring spaces, …