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The Buck stopped here

The Buck stopped here is a weekly blog by our contemporary art correspondent Louisa Buck covering the hottest events and must-see exhibitions in London and beyond

Rirkrit Tiravanija offers cups of sake and space for contemplation at the ICA

Rikrit Tirvanija at the ICA's new sake bar Courtesy of Louisa Buck

It has now been more than 25 years since Rirkrit Tiravanija first fed gallery visitors daily bowlfuls of Thai curry at the ICA’s 1993 Real Time exhibition. The landmark show, curated by Gavin Brown, featured artists making works that engaged directly with real life. Now, this most hospitable of artists is back at the institute, this time with a permanently sited work—Tiravanija’s first in London—that confirms his continuing commitment to art as both physical sustenance and a tool of social interaction.

untitled 2019 (the form of the flower is unknown to the seed) (2019) is a fully functioning sake bar sited between the ICA’s lower gallery and its theatre. Its name is a quote from The Origins of Form in Art, a 1966 book by Herbert Read, one of the ICA’s founders. Open to all comers during the ICA's opening hours, the bar is furnished with a long low table and chairs made in Tiravanija’s studio in Chiang Mai. It is further embellished with special lighting and wall paintings of the sunset and sunrise. As well as serving the finest sake, it will also offer Japanese-influenced food made in consultation with the Rochelle Canteen who run the ICA’s existing café and restaurant.  

Installation view of untitled 2019 (the form of the flower is unknown to the seed) (2019) Mark Blower and courtesy of the ICA

“I wanted a bar that comes from the Japanese idea where everything is close to the ground and more relaxed—it’s not a standing space, it's a place to sit, to think, to talk and contemplate,” says Tiravanija. “Everything is moving so fast, we need to pause. Here you can do just that with a beautiful glass of sake and a nice comfortable chair.” Definitely something that we all can toast!