b. 1961, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Rirkrit Tiravanija was born in Buenos Aires in 1961 and was raised in Thailand, Ethiopia, and Canada. He studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto (1980–84), Banff Center School of Fine Arts (1984), School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1984–86), and Whitney Independent Studies Program in New York (1985–86). Since the 1990s, Tiravanija has aligned his artistic production with an ethic of social engagement, often inviting viewers to inhabit and activate his work. In one of his best-known series, begun with pad thai (1990) at the Paula Allen Gallery in New York, Tiravanija rejected traditional art objects altogether and instead cooked and served food for exhibition visitors. For his second solo exhibition in New York, held at 303 Gallery in 1992, Tiravanija filled the white rooms with stacks of cultural cast-offs, rendering the space into what seemed like a storage facility, demoting the primacy of the revered art object.
Over the following years, the artist ignored the prescribed division between art and life, constructing communal environments that offer a playful alternative venue for quotidian activities. In 1997 Tiravanija began an engagement with the monoliths of modernist architecture when he installed in the Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden Untitled: 1997 (Glass House), a child-size version of Philip Johnson's famed Glass House (1949). Similarly, untitled 2002 (he promised) is an arena of activities ranging from DJ sessions to film screenings within a chrome and steel structure inspired by Rudolf M. Schindler's iconic Kings Road House (1922) in West Hollywood. For A retrospective (tomorrow is another fine day) (2004), viewers are guided through a seemingly objectless modernist space in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, inhabited only by minimal architectural interventions, tour guides, and theatrical readings by Tiravanija's friend, artist Philippe Parreno. In 2005 Parreno and Tiravanija collaboratively constructed five puppets caricaturizing themselves and three other artists (Pierre Huyghe, Liam Gillick, and Hans Ulrich Obrist), which were then employed for the film untitled 2005 (stories are propaganda). His engagement with propaganda can also be seen in his ongoing series of commissioned drawings derived from newspaper images and in untitled 2006 (fear eats the soul/ November 1–8, 2004), in which Tiravanija painted the phrase “fear eats the soul” over the front page of The New York Times. For his ongoing project The Land (begun in 1998), a collaborative artistic, architectural, and environmental recovery project in Sanpatong, Thailand, residents and artists are welcomed to use a plot of land as a laboratory for development‚Äîcultivating rice, building sustainable houses, or channeling solar power.
Solo exhibitions of his work have been mounted by Reiña Sofia in Madrid (1994), Museum of Modern Art in New York (1997), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1998), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1999), Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo (2002), Chaing Mai University Art Museum (2004), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (2004), and Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2005). Tiravanija's work has also been included in major exhibitions such as Venice Biennale (1993 and 1999), Whitney Biennial (1995 and 2005), Liverpool Biennial (2002 and 2004), São Paulo Bienal (2006), The Shapes of Space at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2007), Installations: Selection from the Guggenheim Collections at Guggenheim Bilbao (2008), and theanyspacewhatever at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2008). For the Venice Biennale in 2003, the artist co-curated Utopia Station, and exhibition that later showed in Haus der Kunst in Munich. Tiravanija's work has been recognized with numerous awards and grants including a Gordon Matta Clark Foundation Award, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Competition Award (1993), National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship (1994), the Lucelia Artist Award from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (2003), and the Hugo Boss Prize from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2004). He lives and works in New York, Berlin, and Chiang Mai.