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Monday, August 04, 2008

But is it art? New York museum goers gawk at hanging horse

Visitors to a New York City museum are struck by the ironic juxtaposition of a horse hanging over their heads. How'd it get way up there? Who put it  there? And why head first?

Well, art is in the eye of the beholder, we are told, but also in the intent of the artist. Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan admits that this installation currently on view in Manhattan is not a real horse, but a taxidermied horse hide (so where do you get one of those? on eBay?) and a fiberglas resin artistic vision of a horse.

Ok, Maurizio, that explains the horse. Now explain the wall.

The "piece" is part of "After Nature,'' the summer group exhibition at New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art. According to the press, "the show pits the helplessly human against the forces of the natural world to decidedly uplifting effect". We are told that the dangling horse "forms a powerful allegory of cruelty, madness, failed ambition and redemption".

Of course, I am distracted by the odd angle of the dangling lower legs and see another scenario entirely. That horse didn't collide with the wall at a gallop; if he had, his front legs would be through the wall. Standing still, he for some reason put his head through a hole in the wall, perhaps to get a carrot, and got stuck. Or maybe he's a cribber, and he gnawed his way through the wall. He was standing on mid-winter Vermont snowpack when he got stuck, and it melted underneath him, leaving him dangling. So they moved the entire wall to Manhattan and installed it in the museum.

That's why I write about horses, not art. I don't go looking for cruelty, madness, or failed ambition when I go to a museum. Do you? Redemption, maybe.

Read more about the artist and exhibits at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Art is not just something that is viewed at surface level, nor is it strictly redemption. Modern art is in the broadest sense a direct reaction from the artist. And that's what this is, modern art, and a reaction.
While i don't know much about this piece i do know the artist likes to create work that stirs a reaction and conversation amongst people.