This is Competition

Reflections on Tino Sehgal's Frieze Project at Frieze Los Angeles

BY Jennifer Piejko in Frieze Week Magazine | 20 FEB 19

By the time the rain let up in Los Angeles, it was time for a walk in New York. I wandered into the “Upper East Side brownstone” on the back lot of Paramount Studios, where a man and woman were chatting on the stoop, presumably waiting for Tino Sehgal's This is competition, which the artist calls a "constructed situation", to begin. They followed me into the empty room, and walked in ahead of me to the back of the small space before turning to face me. They were the constructed situation. They were waiting for an audience.

“This. Is. Andrew. Heyward. From. Marian. Goodman. And. I. Am. Esther. Schipper. From. Esther. Schipper. Gallery. And. This. Is. Competition. A. Constructed. Situation. During. Which. We. Would. Compete. And. Collaborate. To. Present. To. You. With. Works. Available. By. Tino.” The pair communicated by alternating words, somewhat stilt-edly, but as though they had run through something like this a few times before. They shot each other a hesitant glance before speaking each time. “Are. You. Famil-iar. With. His. Work?” I am.

“Perhaps. You. Would. Like. To. See. A. Small. Work…?” There were a few light laughs from the small crowd that had trickled in by now. The charmingly friendly competition between two of the artist’s dealers, from two established, international galleries, was an amusing take on the relentless capitalization of the art market, even of an artist who is known for guarding against any documentation—and therefore object for sale—resulting from his ephemeral artworks.

That it was specifically created to for the context of an art fair makes it as much comedy as choreography. “This. Is. A. Recent. Work. Which. Is. Available. And. Could. Be. Acquired… Shall. We. Start…?” Yes. “If. You Acquire. This. Work. Tino. Would. Work. With. You. To. Personalize. The. Choreography. To. Your. Personality. This. Work. Costs. 30,000. Euros. Plus. Travel. Expenses. For. Tino. Other. Works. By. Tino. Are. Maybe. Bet-ter. For. Museums. Such. As. This. Is…” Does this work continue all day? What hap-pens when we all leave walk out? They paused for a beat before smiling to each other and answering. “Once. The. Room. Is. Empty… We. Stop.”

Tino Sehgal's This is Competition was part of Frieze Projects program, curated by Ali Subotnick, at Frieze Los Angeles 2019. Photography and filming of Sehgal's work is strictly forbidden.


Jennifer Piejko is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles.