The installation is a recreation of Jannis Kounellis’ Untitled (12 Horses), originally displayed in 1969 in Rome.
The art gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is in the midst of its last installment before moving from Greenwich Village to Harlem, and Brown went big in recreating Jannis Kounellis’ Untitled (12 Horses) for the first time in the United States. The original work staged in 1969 in Rome moved twelve horses into an underground parking garage with a polished tile floor:
Called “1960s Conceptualism/Arte Povera/performance and installation art,” the original piece was meant to bring the natural world into the private gallery space, creating a tension between the idea of “enjoying art” and the presence of twelve large and totally unabashedly real horses.
The New York City recreation, open to the public at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise through Saturday, June 27th, has made a few significant modifications that greatly improve the quality of artistic life for the twelve horses: each horse has feed and water, is tied comfortably long, and is only on display from noon until 6:00 in the evening, upon which the horses return to a nearby stable for the night. Three grooms are in attendance while the installation is open. The horses essentially just hang out for those six hours, eating, drinking, pooping, napping and doing other horsey things. The floor has been covered in rubber for comfort and traction.
The culture website Vulture described the installation:
Far from being yet another example of the revival of this or that work of 1960s or 1970s art — a trope that has become depressingly familiar in today’s art world always on the lookout for some niche of recent art history that needs marketing — 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. 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.
A second installation opens for the evenings after the horses head home to the barn, but after Saturday, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is closing up shop and moving to Harlem.
What do you think, Horse Nation? Is this a moving work of art? Or is this the rest of the world catching on to what we’ve already experienced when walking into the barn: the beauty and emotion of being in the presence of horses?