Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Ave. at 89th St.
Through March 10 (closed Thursday)
Admission: $18 adults, children under twelve free
(pay-what-you-wish Saturdays 5:45-7:45)
While it might seem at first that the massive physicality of Anish Kapoor’s “Memory” stands in stark contrast to Tino Sehgal’s latest interactive intervention, both works deal with various aspects of memory, challenging and confronting, in unusual and unexpected ways, how we look at, interpret, experience, and define art. While it might be true of any work of art that the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it, in Sehgal’s case complete participation is intrinsic to its success or failure for each individual. First off and most important, the less you know about Sehgal’s new installation, the better; if you’re an adventurous, non-xenophobic museumgoer, read no further and just marvel in the magic of what is an unconventional, stimulating, and thrilling work. We still won’t give away much — when we initially walked through the Guggenheim, we had absolutely no idea what to expect — but it’s not necessarily for everybody. It does involve surprise social interaction, intellectual discussion, and not a single thing hanging on the walls — no paintings, no sculptures, no labels, no nothing. There are no handouts, no signs inside or outside the museum, no photography or video allowed by anyone, including the artist himself, and no audio tour or press notes. There is a clothed couple rolling around the lobby floor, engaged in a long kiss that evokes romantic images from famous historical works, but that is a second piece by Sehgal, not part of the main installation. And after you’ve made your way up the spiraling walkway once, you can head back to the beginning and start all over again, with very little being the same. When Sehgal’s intervention concludes March 28, it will exist only in the memory of those who participated in it, from museum visitors to the people Sehgal hired to the Guggenheim staff to the artist himself; there will be not a shred of physical proof that it ever existed. But it will remain in your memory for a very long time, whether you loved it or hated it, whether it left you bored or excited, whether you thought it wasn’t worth the admission fee or you can’t wait to go back again and again and again, raving about it to friends and family.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the online Guggenheim Forum discusses “Beyond Material Worth” February 22-26, including a live one-hour chat on February 25 at 2:00, while Dorothea von Hantelmann will deliver the lecture “How to Do Things with Art” on February 24 at the museum ($10, 6:30).