The best thing at Art Basel this June was an empty room containing a piece by Tino Sehgal called "This Is Competition." Two gallerists representing Sehgal stand and introduce themselves as well as the work, which involves discussing, re-enacting and ostensibly selling past works by the artist.
The brilliant and entrancing aspect of the performance is that the gallerists speak by saying single, alternating words with each other in an ongoing, improvised speech that's also a choreographed, cooperative monologue and a lilting, competitive dialogue.
Sehgal's work is immaterial and impressively undocumented. This piece and his portrait are represented only as empty grey boxes without descriptions in the official materials for the exhibition. The very fact that "This Is Competition" can't be photographed and shared via Instagram made it an indelibly memorable moment.
The empty room in question was one of 14 in the "14 Rooms" exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach, which was a powerful experience. The show's success was in part determined by the architectural environment designed by Herzog & de Meuron. A freestanding box within Hall 3 of Messe Basel, the interior contained a massive corridor with mirrored walls at either end. Along each side of the corridor were seven mirrored doors, each with a unique, sculptural wood handle. Only by opening the door and entering the room would you discover what was occurring within--an experience a little like playing "Let's Make A Deal" in a hall of mirrors.