Rirkrit Tiravanija’s relationship with the Walker goes back to the 1995 exhibition Economies: Hans Accola and Rirkrit Tiravanija and his subsequent artist residency. Since then, he has realized many projects around the world and become one of the most influential thinker-practitioners in contemporary art. Fittingly embodying his peripatetic, gregarious existence, Tiravanija’s open, generous art often turns rarified galleries into spaces for social gathering and interaction. In them, visitors are invited to be more than mere viewers, compelled also to reconsider the institution of art and the act of art-making itself. His own words capture the spirit of his practice: “It is not what you see that is important but what takes place between people.”
In 2003, Tiravanija collaborated with art historian Molly Nesbit and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist on Utopia Station, a sprawling, hectic, energetic gathering of more than 150 artists presented in Venice, which sought to find a new definition of utopia relevant to our troubled times and realized the notion of “station.” For the artist, the “station … becomes a place to stop, to contemplate, to listen and see, to rest and refresh, to talk and exchange. For it will be completed by the presence of people and a program of events.” Tiravanija’s contribution to OPEN-ENDED is a structure inspired by the Raumbühne (space-stage), a round, two-story, temporary experimental theater stage built by Viennese architect Friedrich Kiesler in 1924. This project is part of the artist’s continuing series of dialogues with important monuments and milestones in modernist architecture and design. While its imposing physical presence and idiosyncratic architecture may at first glance seem out of place in the Walker’s gallery, the construction sets the stage for the exhibition and is meant to be used.
Tiravanija was honored in 2004 by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, with its prestigious biennial Hugo Boss Prize. In 2004–2005, he was the subject of a series of mid-career retrospectives entitled A Retrospective (Tomorrow Is Another Fine Day) at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris/ARC, Paris; and the Serpentine Gallery, London.