Animal Rights Activists Protest ‘Untitled (12 Horses)’ at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise


Well, that didn’t take long.

Animal activists turned up at Gavin Brown’s West Greenwich Village gallery space in New York to protest the showstopping final exhibit there before the gallery moves uptown to Harlem. The work in question is Jannis Kounellis’s Arte Povera masterpiece, 12 Horses, which debuted in Rome in 1969. The installation features 12 horses tethered to the wall, eating hay, on a rubberized floor.

The exhibit runs through June 27 until 6 pm. At all times the horses are looked after by three attentive grooms.


However, artnet News learned that animal activists showed up at the gallery today around 3 p.m. with signs objecting to the inclusion of the horses in the show. One sign read, “It’s not art, it’s animal abuse,” and another read, “Modern Slavery.”

It’s not clear if the activists were associated with a particular group. One gallery goer said there was just a handful of protesters but that they were yelling.

This made for a hectic environment, he said, as the gallery was live broadcasting President Obama’s eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina pastor who was murdered last week when a racist gunman opened fire in an African-American church, killing nine people.

Brown, who can be seen in the photos, was calmly trying to talk to the protesters. A spokesperson for the gallery said Brown declined to comment. Kounellis himself was also hanging out at the gallery when the protesters showed up.


Jannis Kounellis Untitled (12 Horses) at Gavin Brown Enterprise.

Danny Moss, an animal rights activist at Their Turn, told Gothamist that he asked Gavin Brown about the horses’s sleeping conditions. “His only response was that horses sleep standing up. I explained that they can catch a cat nap standing up but that they get their REM sleep when lying down.”

Jerry Saltz’s New York magazine review gushes, “the work stills the spirit and lifts the senses.”

In response to artnet News questions, a PETA spokesperson said the organization was not involved in this protest.

Asked for comment on the exhibition, PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange said in an emailed statement: “These horses are standing for hours on a hard surface, tethered and unable to exercise or rest. If people in New York City want to gawk at horses forced to stand all day long, they can go to the hack line and see the horses lined up in all weather extremes and forced to drag carriages full of tourists around the city.”

This isn’t the first time an art show has run afoul of animal rights activists in recent memory: last year, a Hermann Nitsch show at Museo Jumex was cancelled after protests over his use of animal carcasses, and Cai Guo Qiang was accused of abusing tortoises at the Aspen Art Museum.

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