In 1969, shortly after Rome’s Galleria l’Attico moved into a new location in the city, a former garage on Via Beccaria, the Greek artist Jannis Kounellis ushered in 12 horses and tethered them to the walls, helping to inaugurate the space. But now that storied hallmark of Arte Povera is being used to say goodbye.
The work, titled Untitled (12 Horses) (1969), is now installed, with the artist’s blessing, as the final exhibition at dealer Gavin Brown’s space on Greenwich Street in the West Village. Last week, the dealer announced that he will reopen in the fall in a new location in Harlem. The Kounellis, which will remain on view through Saturday, is very much Brown’s last blast at what has been his headquarters since 2003.
It is an historic occasion for reasons other than Brown’s move. This is the first time the piece, which is being presented in collaboration with Kounellis’s gallery, Cheim and Read, is being shown in North America (for that matter, it’s never been shown in South America). It most recently appeared in Naples in 2006.
“I’ve always wanted to show this piece,” Brown told ARTnews in his gallery on Wednesday, as the earthy smell of hay, and a touch of manure, wafted through the skylit space. “When I first got this part of the space, I knew this was the piece I wanted to see in here.”
With its several garage doors, Brown’s gallery, a former industrial space, seems to echo the horses’ original setting in Rome. And live animals have a particular resonance here: a back area of the gallery was formerly used as a meat locker for Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, Brown’s landlord. (It is worth remembering that when Brown expanded his gallery into that part of the building back in 2010, it opened with Jonathan Horowitz’s installation “Go Vegan!”)
The horses in Brown’s gallery come from upstate New York, he said. They are in the gallery during gallery opening hours, and at night they go to a local stable. The show also includes pieces by Sturtevant and Rirkrit Tiravanija.
As for Kounellis, he once told an interviewer, discussing the piece, “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 such as those that that exist in homes. Their placement in the room delineated the building’s foundations. When an exhibition like this ends, all that remains is a memory.”