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Live Horse Exhibit at NYC Art Gallery Triggers Backlash and Protests (Video)

June 30, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

As thousands of New Yorkers gathered at the Stonewall Inn on June 26th to celebrate the freedom to marry, 12 horses tethered to an art gallery wall just a few blocks away waited patiently for the freedom to move. It was an ironic and disheartening site to behold on an otherwise happy and historic day in Greenwich Village.

Just a few blocks away from the freedom to marry celebration, horses in art gallery were stripped of freedom to move

Just a few blocks away from the freedom to marry celebration, horses in art gallery were stripped of freedom to move

A NYC art gallery displayed 12 live horses for four days

A NYC art gallery displayed 12 live horses for four days

The New York Times described the live horse exhibit – “Untitled (12 Horses)” – as “stupendous,” but caring New Yorkers were not impressed. In fact, some showed up to protest.

The artist Jannis Kounellis, who says tying the horses to walls “makes a connection between the living element and the idea of solid foundations,” first created this exhibit in Rome in 1969. Oblivious to the outrage it would trigger in 2015, art dealer Gavin Brown brought Mr. Kounellis to his gallery in Greenwich Village to re-create it. For four days, the horses were tied to the wall for six to nine hours, rendering them unable to move around freely, lie down or scratch an itch.

Animal rights activists protest an art exhibit that consists of live horse

Animal rights activists protest an art exhibit with live horses

In a heated discussion at the gallery, Mr. Brown told TheirTurn’s Donny Moss that the horses were being treated humanely, with access to food, water and air conditioning. But, even if true, that misses the point, which, advocates say, is that animals are not props or “objects,” as the artist himself described the horses.

One of 12 horses tethered to the wall at Gavin Brown's art gallery in New York City

One of 12 horses tethered to the wall at Gavin Brown’s art gallery in New York City

It wasn’t only New Yorkers who registered their anger. People around the country flooded Mr. Brown with phone calls; expressed their anger on social media; and wrote scathing reviews online about the gallery. On Facebook, its rating dropped from 4.8 to 2.0 out 5. At least two media outlets wrote articles about the backlash. A story in the Gothamist, which had almost 200 comments, quoted TheirTurn’s Donny Moss: “Future generations will look at the photos of this animal exhibit and ask, ‘What were they thinking?'”

According to the NY Times, horses "relieving themselves" is a part of the experience of the exhibit

According to the NY Times, horses “relieving themselves” is a part of the experience of the exhibit

This is not the first time the Jannis Kounellis has used live animals. In his piece entitled “Fishbowl,” he placed a six inch chef’s knife into a bowl with live goldfish.

Artist Jannis Kounellis holds fish captive in a small bowl with a chef's knife

Artist Jannis Kounellis holds fish captive in a small bowl with a chef’s knife

An art news publication reported that Mr. Brown intends to re-create the exhibit yet again in a new gallery space. The backlash to this exhibit, however, has reportedly led to a change in plans. Starting on Friday, callers to the gallery were told that Mr. Brown would not be exhibiting the horses again.

Your Turn

Call Gavin Brown’s gallery to convey your point of view about the use of live animals in an art exhibit and ask him to cancel plans to re-create the exhibit in his new gallery space: 212-627-5258

Post a review of the gallery.



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TheirTurn.net Comments

  1. Maria Mantalena says:

    Να δεσουν τους εαυτους τους ολοι αυτοι οι καλλιτεχνες του κωλου!!!

  2. Elizabeth Hemmerdinger says:

    This is an example of gross inhumanity on any day.

  3. dawn b says:

    I urge everyone to call this animal abuser and let them know how you feel about what they are doing to animals – 212-627-5258

  4. Angie Augustine says:

    I am appalled that this art gallery would allow such a display of blatant animal cruelty! For centuries animals have been persecuted no differently than man for being another species! The ignorance that followed those decisions then, should have corrected that type of gross illogical thinking now!! Animals are sentient beings, it’s time they are treated as such and freed from the cruel bondages that mankind has placed on them!! We are supposed to display intelligence, humanity, compassion for those that are less fortunate…not ignorance!! When we will manifest from our super egos and give another living being the right to be them without causing them pain and suffering to suit our very selfish needs???!

    1. Carrie says:

      I agree I have owned horses for 30 years and I would not tie one for 24 hours straight however Cowboys would tie their horses overnight 8 hours but horses need to move around and exercise if they would have given them 4 hours every 16 hours it would have been okay just move them around and let them relax for 4 hours I agree I have owned horses 4 30 years and I would not type 1 424 hours straight however cowboys would thai there horses overnight 8 hours but horses need to move around and it is that if they would have given them 4 hours everything 16 hours it would have been okay just moving around a little relax for 4 hours

  5. Terry says:

    Hi Donny-

    I called the museum. They said that the exhibit closed and they don’t have plans to re-open it.

    Yes, I agree it’s a shame that on such a great occasion as Friday was, that this exhibit was unfortunately open.

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