Rirkrit Tiravanija Will Open a Hidden Rooftop Tea House at Singapore’s National Gallery by Sarah Cascone
The artist will hide a wooden tea house in the heart of a bamboo maze.
If you’re in Singapore next year, Rirkrit Tiravanija invites you to tea at the National Gallery Singapore—if you can find him.
The famed artist is set to run a tea house on the museum’s roof garden, where visitors are invited to participate in traditional tea ceremonies. But to take part in this gesture of hospitality, they will also have to locate it at the heart of a “large-scale bamboo maze.”
“We are delighted to present Tiravanija in the next Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission Series, an ongoing public art initiative to welcome new audiences and deepen the appreciation of Southeast Asian art,” wrote Low Sze Wee, the museum’s director of curatorial, collections, and education, in an email to artnet News.
Tiravanija’s will run for nine months, starting in January 2018.
The artist plans to draw on regional materials and architectural traditions to build his site-specific installation. Inside the wooden tea house, visitors will be able to participate in tea ceremonies with local and international tea masters, as well as other programming.
Tiravanija previously built mirrored tea rooms at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, in 2013, and at the Okayama Art Summit in 2016. If previous iterations are any indication, you can expect bonsai trees, traditional Japanese implements such as a furo (brazier) and bamboo spoons, and matcha.
The Singapore tea house continues Tiravanija’s work in the relatively new genre of relational aesthetics, in which the artist creates and oversees social experiences. For Tiravanija, those experiences generally revolve around food: at his first New York solo show, held at Paula Allen Gallery in 1990, he served gallery goers pad thai. In 2010, he released a cookbook, Just Smile Don’t Talk, sharing the recipes that had featured in his work over the years.
More recently, he staged a communal restaurant at the Messeplatz outside Art Basel in 2015, and opened a pop-up in Berlin, taking over the restaurant of chef Victoria Eliasdottir, half-sister of artist Olafur Eliasson, in 2016. For the past two summers, Tiravanija has run a restaurant called Unclebrother with his dealer Gavin Brown in the upstate New York town of Hancock.
The National Gallery Singapore’s rooftop commission series kicked off in 2016/2017 with Vietnamese-born Danish artist Danh Vo, whose site-specific installation on the theme of cross-cultural identity closed earlier this month.