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Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

For a gallery with 12 horses and a line of visitors stretching out the door, Gavin Brown’s enterprise is exceptionally hushed. The restaging of Jannis Kounellis‘s 1969 piece “Untitled (12 Horses)” opened Wednesday and is only on through Saturday as the West Village gallery’s final hurrah before relocating uptown to Harlem.

When I asked gallery owner Gavin Brown what he thought it meant to bring these live animals into the space as art, he said: “I don’t think it’s about anything.” He added that it’s “more through the coverage than the art” that the piece takes on a meaning more than what it is, saying that the press reactions were part of what drove the crowds lined outside the building.

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

The display of animals as art has sparked complaints that the horses tethered to the walls weren’t able to move freely. However, Robert Clemens, who was visiting the exhibition on Friday and has had 17 horses, noted that the setup wasn’t at all different from a horse stall where they wouldn’t be able to turn around, and the concrete floor covered with rubber for their hooves was likewise much like good horse accommodations. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary going on here,” he said. Joe Andoe, an artist who regularly paints horses, said he wasn’t surprised about the turnout for the rare close encounter with the animals in Manhattan, and that he’d “heard they were going out of their way to take good care of the horses.”

On entering, visitors are advised to keep their voices down and stay a distance from the animals, something which attendants were enforcing. The space is cool and still, and the horse’s sleek bodies of rippled muscle and smooth manes are illuminated by the skylights. Similar to the original 1969 staging of the Kounellis piece at Rome’s Galleria L’Attico, there’s a consideration of the art in the beauty of an animal like a horse, which artists have been drawn to since the Lascaux caves were painted. Yet there’s also something absurd about their calm presence in this white-walled gallery space.

“It’s so quiet,” Melanie Kress, a curatorial fellow at Friends of the High Line, remarked after seeing the horses. “Having fallen in love with that piece in art history class, it’s still stunning.”

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

The line for Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses)” continues at Gavin Brown’s enterprise (620 Greenwich Street, West Village, Manhattan) through June 27.

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...

7 replies on “The Calm and Controversy of 12 Horses in an Art Gallery”

  1. Im sorry but how long do our horses stay tied to a trailer at an all day horse show???????????????????? This says 6 hours, which is about the length of a show sometimes a lot longer than that. These guys are in AC!! Mine would kill for ac during a long show in the day in Florida. As far as being tied to tight……Anybody with horses would scold these people for the way they are tied to loose lol Tying them to loose can actually cause problems such as getting a leg over the rope or the rope over the head causing the horse to freak out. But if you have a horse that has been taught how to be patient (which is done just like this) then you really dont have to worry to much about it. Horse owners compete all over the world in door. Horses stand in trailers like this traveling across the U.S. Minus the AC. They also fly in on airplanes and are shipped in trains. To be honest these guys are perfectly comfortable and would be laughing if they knew everyone was upset they are standing in Ac while eating hay

    1. How many times can you cut and paste the same stupid comment lol? Unfortunately, this looks to be the most intelligent comment you have in your history, and that really says something.

  2. They look OK…just bored and depressed. I know a lot of horses who’d yank the hardware out of the wall just to have a chance to cruise around the room and visit the other horses. I wonder why nobody here (I mean the horses) looks upset. Ace?

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