Since 1990, Tiravanija has served food—usually Thai cuisine—in art spaces as artworks, and the presentation is typically straightforward: wait in line, grab a bowl, and enjoy. This past May, he restaged his first such food work, untitled (pad thai), in a group show at David Zwirner gallery in Hong Kong (where he’ll also present a solo show next year). While the artist sometimes gets involved in the cooking, it is ultimately up to whoever owns the work or is otherwise presenting it to deal with kitchen duties. In Hong Kong, a former assistant, Tony Huang Zhiyong, who now works for Zwirner, got the job.
“You know how to do it, so just do it,” Tiravanija told the cook. He also pointed him to a book with instructions. “I took the recipe from an American lady who made a Thai cookbook, so she was interpreting Thai food as an American,” Tiravanija said of tweaks to traditional ingredients that included trading tamarind for ketchup. “It’s bastardized totally, but in a way it works,” he said. “The idea of using ketchup was totally brilliant.”