How Does a Museum Buy an Artwork That Doesn’t Physically Exist?

Zoë Lescaze in the New York Times:

It is an understatement to say that the 42-year-old [Tino] Sehgal is obsessive about his work, from its concept to the lexicon used to describe it. His practice has more to do with theater and acting techniques (many of his players are professional actors) than it does with the tradition of performance art, the de facto description for any kind of live experimentation in the art world. And it’s not strictly conceptual art, either, if one goes by Sol LeWitt’s assertion that “the execution” of such art “is a perfunctory affair.” The reverence Sehgal inspires among curators, collectors and other artists is informed by his particularities: Following an interview for this piece, one slightly panicked museum official wrote to request that any accidental uses of the word “performance” be corrected. (Sehgal feels that term suggests works that are more fleeting and have more of a wall between audience and performer than exists in his art.) “I would hate for that slip-up to offend Tino,” the employee wrote. “I think it would be a bit serious, actually.”

Asad Raza, an artist and frequent collaborator of Sehgal’s, describes the process of purchasing a Sehgal as “almost like a kind of therapy” for those who buy it — an altogether different process than the moneyed art world is used to, even as museums and collectors expand their holdings to include unconventional performance and conceptual art.

More here.