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Exploitation on Display in New York Art Gallery

Jannis Kounellis. Photo by Gabuchan

Jannis Kounellis. Photo by Gabuchan

In recreating Jannis Kounellis’ 1969 “art” installation Untitled (12 Horses), New York art dealer and gallery owner Gavin Brown is celebrating that which is most ugly about our culture. The sickening exhibit, on view through tomorrow at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, is nothing more than 12 horses tethered to the gallery’s walls.

“I’ve always wanted to show this piece,” Brown was quoted by ARTnews as saying.

The New York Times Roberta Smith suggests that the horses’ “accommodation in a space that is recognizably an art gallery foments an especially concentrated encounter with the brute power of art and its ability to transform space.”

That’s a whole lot of pretentious — and insulting — nonsense.

In an August 2004 interview with the Greek Left ReviewKounellis likened Untitled (12 Horses) to “a theatrical performance,” and said, “This was the significance of my action, which is defined by freedom.”

Whose freedom?

Kounellis’ exploitation of horses in 1969 marked the move of the Galleria l’Attico into a new space in Rome.

“Now that storied hallmark of Arte Povera is being used to say goodbye,” ARTnews explained.

Brown plans to move his gallery, in September, from the West Village to Harlem.

None of this, of course, matters to the exploited animals.

The horses tethered to the walls of Brown’s gallery space are not willing performers, of course. They are victims.

“The horses were tied to the wall of the gallery in order to make a connection between the living element and the idea of solid foundations,” Kounellis told the Greek Left Review in 2004.

Being tethered to a wall, unable to do anything but stand there and be looked at as an object, is not living. What Brown’s exploitation of horses does is reinforce and celebrate the arrogant notion that man is entitled to hold dominion over other species. Putting a frame around exploitation and calling it “art” does not eliminate the cruelty that, in this case, is the medium.

Contact Gavin Brown at 212-627-5258 and tell him that exploitation is not art.

Related commentaries:
Slaughtered Deer on Display in Syracuse “Art” Exhibit
Performance Artist Frames Animal-Testing Protest


  1. Donny Moss wrote:

    Thank you for putting my feelings – and those of many others – into such articulate words.

    Friday, June 26, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  2. Adam wrote:

    Even if these were models, it would be offensive-but it’s so much more offensive for two reasons: because they are living, feeling beings, and because the exhibit isn’t entitled “Modern Slaves.” Why not chronicle the kinds of atrocities these poor creatures have endured ever since their unfortunate discovery by humans? Far from being an artist, this man is a simple-minded troglodyte like most, when it comes to animals.

    Friday, June 26, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
  3. Rory wrote:

    David you should probably see Jurassic World if you haven’t already.

    Friday, June 26, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

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