Untitled (Free) was the title of Tiravanija’s first solo exhibition, held in 1992 at the 303 Gallery in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. For the occasion, the artist moved the contents of the gallery’s back rooms into the exhibition space, placing the business of art on display, and transformed the emptied office into a temporary kitchen, where he prepared Thai vegetable curry and served it free to anyone who wanted it.
The work has had several iterations since then. When it was re-presented at the Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1995, Tiravanija added “still” to the title. In 2007 he restaged it at the David Zwirner Gallery in Manhattan, recreating the space of the original exhibition and reemploying the furnishings and leftovers—crates, boxes, empty cans, even food items—from the past presentations. Now in MoMA’s collection, the piece can be displayed either as a vestige of its earlier manifestations or reactivated with food prepared in the Museum’s kitchen.
Tiravanija’s practice has grown out of the playful aesthetics of Fluxus—a loose group of artists, active beginning in the 1960s, whose experimental musical scores, performances, and happenings often evolved over time and incorporated elements of everyday life—and it shares a focus on social relations with the work of artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark, who in 1971 cofounded Food, a restaurant in SoHo that employed artists and hosted art/food performances. Like so many of Tiravanija’s works, untitled (free/still) invites viewers to step out of their habitual roles as observers and become participants.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)