Tate curator Jessica Morgan and artist Gabriel Orozco at Tate Modern
Tate curator Jessica Morgan and artist Gabriel Orozco in the artist's exhibition at Tate Modern

No matter how long you work on an exhibition there is always an element of surprise. On this occasion I was not expecting to experience the co-existence of Orozco’s humour with a reflection on mortality.

Gabriel Orozco Lintels
Poignant remnants - from the washing machine. An installation view of Gabriel Orozco's Lintels.

Both aspects of his work have equal presence in the exhibition: a room with the billiard table and many of his photographs suggests a mood of frivolity and pleasure in the small moments of life, while the installation of Lintels, literally sheets of lint removed from clothes drying machines in New York and hung like washing along lines across the gallery, is a poignant and evocative reminder of the dust and detritus that is life.

Gabriel Orozco Black Kites
Looking death in the eye. Installation of Gabriel Orozco's skull Black Kites with Obituaries in the background.

The room containing Black Kites perhaps summarises this best: the skull on which Orozco laboriously worked in graphite (literally looking death in the eye) is paired with his recent series ‘Obituaries’ for which he gathered headlines from the New York Times obituaries. Taken out of context, the one-liners that summarise a person’s life often make for hilarious reading, such as: ‘Burlesque Star Famous for her Bubblebaths’ or ‘Philosopher, Author, Friend of Popes’, and ‘Sensational Human Cannonball’. Let me know what you think of the show.


Alan Folly

The exhibition was patchy. Some bits were really good, original and thought provoking e.g.the DS car, the four bicycles, the skull and the horses running endlessly. I also liked breath on piano and some of the other photos were amusing such as the cats and watermelons. However other pieces left me cold - the pictures of the motorscooters, the elevator and the lintels which all seemed copies of other people's ideas. Overall worth going to but not sure that I will remember much about it in a year or so. I also liked that there were no write ups explaining the pieces as you went into each room. I like to make up my own mind rather than be told what the srt is trying to say.

Paul Ashurst

A mildly pleasant exhibition, a few of the photos were engaging and the cut up car and the clay body reference pieces were also nice. I realise I am damning with faint praise, but I would like to go to a show at Tate Modern and be amazed, moved, stunned by dexterity in handling materials and be shown things that were not quite so pedestrian. All readymades have been done to death and yet they are still exhibited as if buying one constituted a piece of art.


Absolutely loved the Orozco exhib. Best thing seen at TMod for a long time.

Agree whole-heartedly with others' comments, it was thought-provoking and uplifting. Cannot remember seeing so many different people - young, old etc - all smiling as they went round the pieces. Fantastic to witness.

Horizons have definitely been expanded. Was not familiar with Orozco's work so am now hungry to find out more, not just about him, but other artists currently working in Mexico, so thanks.

Also agree about the great sense of space and light to admire Orozco's work. Think this was as far removed from the Gauguin exhib - such a miserably crammed experience - as it was possible to be.

Finally, can nothing be done to free the innocent sunflower seeds currently imprisoned behind ropes in the turbine hall? They're not guilty as charged! Please let people enjoy them as they were originally meant to be. Art should be engaging not passive or watered down.

Geoff Riding

Wasn't aware of his work before the exhibition. Seduced by the DS, and also the Four Bicycles, the Carambole and the Schwalbe photos. Unmoved by Obit series and Dial Tone. Intend to re-visit and look again, focussing on Atomist work and maybe the Horses. Provoking and stimulating, I think your introduction in the accompanying booklet is very percept!


Extremely versatile artist - sculpture, photos, pix. Didn't really warm to his work however, tho' found the yellow scooters amusing. Could appreciate the recurring theme of symmetry in much of the work. My impression was that the Orozco finds these painstakingly created items therapeutic to do eg Dial Tone. I quite liked that one - better than say, Elevator. Overall, the exhibition gave me food for thought.


I am not sure that I really connected with bits of limp tumble-dryer fluff hung out to dry and the detritus of burst tyres neatly laid across the floor and dolloped with metal.

The photography was interesting, for me the highlight. Overall? Underwhelmed.

Anne Reyburn

We loved the exhibition - every bit of it. We like his thinking and the variety of pieces. Our 3 kids were totally captivated and particularly loved the scooter photos and the DS. Luckily we went very early while it was quiet so we could wander around the spaces unaware of other visitors.


I agree with some of the above people who said the exhibition was patchy as well as disappointing. Firstly, perhaps Tate Modern should have offered the artist a larger space to work with. Apart from two or three items, there really wasn't much that worth spending much time on. I am glad I didn't pay to go to the exhibition (am a member) or I would have been supremely disappointed.

The cut-up car and snooker table - they are interesting, but perhaps it would make this exhibition more unique if they were not included as the Barbican only hosted his works fairly recently.

Greta O'Grady

Felt I could identify with this erudite and humourous artist. He nudges one's perception of the everyday - compelling us to PAUSE and perhaps provoking a more varied, even anarchic response to the humdrum of our surroundings. In many cases he usurps the object's original function e.g LA DS (gorgeous car, I want it!) and Horses Running..TRANSFORMATION - always a good thing! My favourite piece was Solar Graphite - no idea why. And can someone tell me why I kept thinking of Samuel Beckett? I too work with found materials (though in my case only wood and paper and my obsession is linear), but the compulsion/attraction is to transform the disgarded.

Thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Prue Dobinson

Art is not necessarily painted.

This exhibition was well worth the visit - it was provocative and contemplative and inspirational as well! The realisation that things change - nothing stays the same in life - is important step towards maturity. Celebrating and recording the incidental, highlighting an object eg symbol of mortality like the skull and giving it a new perspective, is what art is all about for me.


An excellent and surprising exhibition of an artist I had never heard of; full of humour, cerebral jokes, obsession bordering on the autistic, and beautiful in unexpected ways. The obsessive attention to detail prompts the same in the viewer and left me wondering why 3 of the knights on the chess space were not threatening another. Or the need to decode and deduce how each of the 3 Samurai Tree pictures generates the next while, without thinking, you can see the beautiful impact of this semi-veiled process.

I particularly liked the themes of reflection in some of the photos and found it compellingly rendered in the aluminium poured into torn tyres. No shortage of mortality here and the Lintels were both constructed of dead cells and reminiscent of a Rothko painting shading subtly through pinks to beige.

Well worth a visit and wasn't crowded on the Monday I went.


Disappointing... where is the huge (whale?) skeleton with graphite he showed at White Cube? The black kites skull/obituaries is the only room to lift it above the eclecticism of a student degree show.


Hi Jessica, I recently visited the exhibition and although I was previously unaware of Gabriels work I really enjoyed the exhibition as a whole. The reason for my visit may be different from many as I was interested in how the exhibition was laid out and how the works interact with the space as well as the actual pieces themselves. I'm currently studying design at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford and our most recent brief calls for us to research and prepare an exhibition. Can you tell me more about how the spaces were prepared and adapted for Gabriels exhibition and how you both selected works for those locactions? Many thanks, Paul.

Rozelle Pope

i absolutely loved this show. in fact it lifted my spirits. i loved the pieces and the series. the constant seemed to me to be humor, play, and affection for the creatures we are and live with - animate and inanimate - and a real artistry. i loved the drawings, collages, photographic images and objects. needs a second visit. thank you!

Danielle BlÅ“dÃ...

I do agree with Sue Watts, I was rather annoyed the first time I went to see the exhibition, when it first opened, so I expect in some ways the exhibition works as I had such a response, albeit not a usual one for me. Went back yesterday and wizzed through it, ignoring more than half of it, the circles, (spit toothpaste as a starting point for art????), the lint, the tyre bits, not really impressed by the skull, saw lots of similar ideas especially in Mexico, the box is not the original one / nor the one on the video, there are too many scooter photos, noticed people looking at the first few and then ignoring the rest... does it matter? Did enjoy the obituaries and most of the photos even more than the first time. Love the market wall photo! Will the rest grow on me too? I do not think so but have noticed what a good subject it is at dinner parties!


I had nver heard of this artist before. L found it mildly amusing in part and in some respects over repetitive aespecially the motor cycle photos. In common with many i found the Citroen DS exhibit witty and entertaining. he cerainly has a very original mind. I noticed that many of the visitors were obviously entertained.

John McCann

It's amazing what is now accepted as being among the best of modern art and I personally have to confess that I still prefer what now sems to be called wall art. However the three of us did enjoy our hour at the Orozco. The more obvious -and most intriguing - pieces were, of course, the Citroen car, the intertwined bicycles and the chequered skull but I had fun trying to play billiards and we were amused by the obit headlines - but what was the point of the empty shoe-box?

deirdre mcardle

that's so funny Jessica,I didn't find it "chin strokey" either! Dia de los muertos etc old trad.in Mexico for sure.Anyway here in south London 50% of black kids 16-24 have nothing to do,no school,college,work...so it's just the old guns'n' drugs then is it? and baby,they ARE bodies,actually Tavo,its all vibration ! 'beats ' ya get me?

kenneth zammit ...

Have we not had enough skulls covered in diamonds, graphite etc? Have we not had enough of forgotten clothes or whatevers on washing lines? Can we become a bit more painterly for a change and leave cheap gimmicks for those who cannot wield a pencil or a brush to save their lives? I am fed up of all this rubbish being put together and called art; its more like fart! Since the dawn of history man has used form and colour to express image and emotion. This stuff marks the end of our civilization.


Did Orozko ever exhibit at the Ikon gallery in Birmingham? Maybe around 14 to 16 years ago? Dunno why, but for some reason I feel like I've seen his work, and I even feel as if I've written about him. I'm probably wrong..


roy isaacs

there's always an idiot who has to make a childish silly political jibe. Methinks the last Labour government left the economy like a pile of junk!


I want to come. I really want to see this exhibition. But, is it a big completely uncontrollable blockbuster like the recent exhibtions?.... I can't bear another scrum. It spoils the pleasure of art and that surely can't be right.

sue douglass

Really enjoyed this show. Witty and poetic. Laughed at the car. Loved the way the shoebox got accidentally kicked across the floor by visitors (how many works of art get that treatment at exhibitions) making the invigilators a bit exasperated; the photographs (interventions; reconfigurations?)e.g. breath on piano and the one with the water on the roof, were wonderful. Subtle and beautiful. The drawings over newspaper photos were interesting, bit like Walid Raad in some ways. I went with my teenage son and he was impressed too, particularly the car (should be put into production!), the lift (very claustrophobic) and Carambole with Pendulum (missed the pendulum despite several tries). Well done, really well curated, plenty of space, lots to think about.

Kaaren Hale,

I am afraid I have to agree with the FT critic that these works are light weight and ultimately inconsequential. Of course I had thought I was going to see the works of Orozco, the Mexican muralist who painted for the Rockefeller family and combined artistry, Latin American politics and culture in his works. I think the school of tired metaphors (which is now conceptual art) is SO OVER. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Kay

domenico olivero

I really like the approach of Ornco, simple, everyday, the extraordinary

Luz Miharu

Great to know Tate Modern is hosting Gabriel Orozco's exhibit. This is a great way to let the world know something different about Mexico at last!


you are your body and nothing else

Patrick Lee

I really enjoyed the exhibit and was so glad that I went. I often find that half of any exhibit leaves me cold or unimpressed or not making any connection. In this case, I felt that 95% of Orozco's work gave me something to think about, or react to, or simply just smile. Art doesn't always have to be some incredibly difficult concept to comprehend or figure out- it can just be enjoyed and so his photographs, obits, lintels, and sculptures were simply enjoyable. Thank you for the exhibit.

Virginia Monson

The scooters series really drew me and my companion into this artist. We were speculating about what they were saying to each other, if they were on a date, where it was, No doubts what colour their progeny would be! and really daft things. We could not believe (s)he found so many matched pairs and even a trio


I liked how the artist touched upon themes of conflicting and yet interconnecting human perception of time: the time of the chronological but yet repetitive narrative (the berlin moppets) and the cyclical but yet ever changing time of eternity (the french billiard game). And the suggestion that it is up to us to find how to interconnect these times together to find inner peace and freedom, and individuality in an increasingly global world.

David Green

Somewhat disappointed about this show. Showing up on the first day of the exhibit, I noticed there was no audio guide iPod, which I usually like to hire on these one-time events. I did notice, however, that Tate Modern were mimicking Tate Liverpool by providing an online media guide. The Nam June Paik online audio guide at Liverpool worked as planned, and thoroughly elucidating. The Gabriel Orozco audio guide, sadly, was nowhere to be found on Tate Modern's site. Did someone forget to set their alarm? Or let the web team know the start date? While this was a somewhat thinly produced exhibit, the strength of the artist, along with his creations, pulled more than its weight.

patricia buck

thought this to be the most fascinating and interesting, exhibition I have seen for a long time. Certainly made me laugh and is thought provoking.

dalit lahav

Nice curatorial work

Boltanski seems to have exercised some influence on him...

lovely exhibition

deirdre mcardle

oh the list of influences is long,my favorite is errrrm ,Picabia.

Heinz Allemann

Hi Jessica, Hi Gabriel,

I studied the show on my PC, and also the art of Gabriel Orozco. I think his art is very specific but correct modern art, it looks like someone who knows how exactly it to be modern. I wish you a good time.


tom blythe

This is a really good show, wide-ranging with depth too. It is a Mexican 1990s conceptualist out in the world, though, about which I feel ambivalent ultimately.

Kenneth Fart-Man above needs to a/see the show with its rather trad. art historical constructivist precisions, pencil-work! [grow up!] etc. and b/ engage a notion of timeline, or at least have some idea about the artist he is trying to belittle.

The 'big' sculptures are least interesting to me, it sags in mid yrs but Chicotes from 2010 saves the day!




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I really don't see what Rothko has to do with it, or Beckett for that matter. There is an obvious reference here to Beuys and in the case of the chess board and the skull to Duchamps (the usual suspects) But so what? Perhaps this is new to some people, but many of us have seen tons of this kind of thing over the years. I personally am bored to death by it and, believe me, this is particularly thin stuff. For wit and enjoyment, the Cildo Mereiles show knocked spots off Orozco. However, conceptualism has reached a dead end and petered out. It really is time to move on.


El mejor, ¿Cuándo visita Xalapa?.

Carlyle Braden

Looking at the comments above, I, too relate to the Orozco from the 20s and 30s who also painted the mural at the United Nations which hits you in the eye as you go in, along with Sputnik. I know NYC very well and I took a trip to Mexico, partly to see the work of the great man, but it was a high holy day and as we travelled things were shut, as they are wont to be in Catholic Countries. This was a disappointment because along side my husband had collapsed in Mexico City airport and ultimately died from that accident. So my main concern was doing as he wished, which I did and flew him home. My Spanish totally deserted me,but we were put on the next flights out...the hugest expense being the taxi ride from Heathrow to Croydon, where we lived. The NHS were wonderful and instead of the usual Saturday night bloodbath, he was seen to immediately. All through the 3 months it took him to die, they were wonderful. Will I go to see the show? Although the artist looks fanciable, I shall have to think about it.

Angela Kelly

The hanging lint piece is reminiscent of a Mary Kelly piece where she printed text related to the Bosnia war on laundry lint.


Well put together exhibition, wide range of works bringing humour, pathos and curiosity to some everyday objects and events. Worth a view, my personal favourites were: Cats and Watermelons - just so funny, still giggling at my postcard La DS modified Citroen DS - iconic vehicle modified, a treat to the eye Black Kites - brings the dead back to life, clever!

Go see

deirdre mcardle

no R.I. the country's economy was wrecked by greed ,idiotic and childish to take the shortsighted view that it can so continue, the world must now change for society to evolve with humanity.

brian thomas

Funny,Provocative and Profound! Very enjoyable

Julia Mackin

From watching a film on Tate's website (before visiting they exhibition) and a couple of other interviews, I'm fascinated with Orozko- the man. I'd love to spend a day in his playful presence, fulfilling his ideas, focusing on the awareness of us and our bodies in all surrounding dimensions. How cool would it be to push around the city a ball of clay representing me and observe all marks that every day existence "stamps” on us? How we all love the little connection we feel with randomers who made similar choices to us: the same yellow moped- smiley, simple, brilliant. Wouldn't it be great to have everything custom made? Surely personalised cars, elevators at our height make you feel...allowed a bit of selfish self focus  In other words, I'd love to hang out with Orozko himself! With his completed pieces of art...not so much. The life, the fun, the boldness, even the fragility of human being is gone when they stand/hang around exhibition space. Without the explanations on the walls of the ideas, the creating act ...installations are flat, un-engaging. The two pieces which sparkled a shade of deeper contemplation were the telephone numbers and the obituaries. Both squashed, somehow brutally minimised versions of someone's identity and life.


You got me this far! Watched the "Tateshots" podcast. Liked it and him. May well come and see it. Thanks for the podcasts.

M Fischer

If art is about inspiring or changing perception or creativity - this show is not it. Well-curated but visually flat and not moving to me in the slightest. An artist whose art benefits from an explanation and aesthetically leagues away from Jeff Koons, Martin Kippenberger, Joseph Beuys, Katharina Fritsch or even Banksy!

Filip Vermeiren

Best thing about the show was that a woman kicked the shoebox and caused a panic among the security people,... Seemed a bit of a 'student' show to me, a random collection of ideas but none got me realy excited.