Delegated Art

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“The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” —Sol Lewitt

In his famous “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” Sol Lewitt claims that the idea, not the object, is the most significant aspect of a work of art and so, “the execution is a perfunctory affair.” Taking this one step further, in delegated art, outsourcing the production of an artwork is an integral part of the work itself. After the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, for example, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei hired locals to pound bent rebar from the rubble of their villages straight by hand, creating monumental piles of steel later exhibited at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Many contemporary conceptual and performance artists, such as Tino Sehgal, Santiago Sierra, and Vanessa Beecroft, call for the participation of a third party—whether it’s the viewer, a collector, or hired actors. In a recent trend that recalls the history of Medieval guilds and Renaissance art workshops, contemporary artists such as Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst maintain large studios and delegate the production of their work to employees and fabricators.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019