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It's Art: 12 Horses Tied to Art Gallery Walls

Animal rights activists are decidedly not stoked. Don't they know Jannis Kounellis’ 1969 Arte Povera masterpiece is art?
July 11, 2015, 1:15pm
Photo by Manolis Baboussis. Courtesy the artist, Cheim & Read and Gavin Brown's enterprise. Copyright the artist

Every now and then, The Creators Project comes across an artwork that surprises and delights us every bit as much as it confuses us and otherwise has us begging for answers. This is art that defies conventions, challenges sensibilities, and breaks down barriers between comprehension and critique. You might like it—you might not "get it." But we do. Take a deep breath, and before you read this, remember: it's art.

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A horse is a horse, of course—even when it's art. And thus, horses were horses last month at Gavin Brown's location on Greenwich Street, for the re-staging of Jannis Kounellis’ Arte Povera masterpiece, Untitled (12 Horses): they stood, stepped side to side, snacked on provisional piles of hay, and occasionally provided a team of three grooms a shovelful of what we might call "documentation," or, perhaps even the chromosomes in the "albumen of the mind" Jerry Saltz mentions in his animated review of the show on Vulture.

"The sight of these immense animal presences in an art gallery comes on with almost metaphysical force. For me, horses are an other otherness, a higher order of it. Creatures that tranquilize my responses, awe me, make me know a manifest uncanniness of identity," Saltz states. "I love and fear them in ways I can't fathom. Whatever they are, their presence in an art gallery—peaceful, delicate, humbling—is something we don't know we need to know until we know them, and then are grateful for knowing. This is an apt metaphor for what art galleries can do."

As when the seminal piece first appeared in Rome back in 1969, Untitled (12 Horses) explores the possibilities for artmaking when traditional mediums are unavailable. Unlike in the case of its premiere, animal rights activists took over the adjacent space, within which relational aesthetician Rirkrit Tiravanija had set up a free meal of pork tacos cooked in situ.

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Both Kounellis' and Tiravanija's works were staged as a fond farewell to Gavin Brown's West Village location. The gallery is set to reopen in Harlem in late September.

Photo by Manolis Baboussis. Courtesy the artist, Cheim & Read and Gavin Brown's enterprise. Copyright the artist

Photo by Manolis Baboussis. Courtesy the artist, Cheim & Read and Gavin Brown's enterprise. Copyright the artist

Thumbnail photo by Manolis Baboussis. Courtesy the artist, Cheim & Read and Gavin Brown's enterprise. Copyright the artist

Click here to learn more about past, current, and upcoming shows with Gavin Brown's enterprise.

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