You can call anything art these days. Isn’t that the complaint? And not a new one, either. Critics have been questioning ‘new’ art probably as long as we’ve had the concept.
But Gavin Brown’s Untitled (12 Horses), currently live at his gallery Enterprise in Greenwich Village, is not new art by any stretch of the imagination. Well, it is not new. Whether or not it is art is up for debate.
It is, in fact, a recreation of a 1969 Italian installation. The work of the same name by Jannis Kounellis in Rome consisted of 12 draft horses closely tethered to the walls of an unused underground garage with a tiled floor.
Brown isn’t the first to replicate this installation. It has been redone at least five times in Europe in the intervening 46 years. Considered an example of an Italian breed of Post-Minimalism called Arte Povera, perhaps part of the point was to be found in the humbleness of the re-purposed garage, the rough coats of working horses contrasting against old glazed tile. If so, do Brown’s twelve sleek thoroughbreds and crisp black and white show space speak a different language altogether?
Art or not, Italian or American, the installation has drawn praise from art critics and scrutiny from those more concerned with animal welfare. The horses are each tethered to a wall, so closely that they cannot turn or lie down, provided with hay and water and air conditioning, for six hours a day for three days. Three grooms are constantly in attendance. Horses can nap standing up, but do sleep lying down despite popular conception, and should not be kept standing on hard floors for too long without respite.
The exhibit at Enterprise will be the last show there before they move to their new location in Harlem.
What do you think of Gavin Brown’s restaging of Untitled (12 Horses)? Is it fine art, animal exploitation, or a bit of both?
Featured image: via Gavin Brown’s enterprise.