If walls could speak they would make great art market chroniclers.
As gallery goers will have noticed, Yvon Lambert has shut up shop in New York. When the venerable 75-year-old French dealer retired earlier this year direction of his Paris flagship gallery was handed to Olivier Bélot, who had been managing the New York space. Running both ventures was too great a strain: that, rather than diminished market, is the given reason for the retreat.
The old space at 550 West 21st Street has a new tenant: Haunch of Venison New York. They inaugurate their new space Friday September 24 with a group show, Boundaries Obscured, featuring ten artists or artist-partnerships they work with, including Jake & Dinos Chapman, Peter Saul, Gunther Uecker and Ahmed Alsoudani.
Itself a US outpost of a European venture, a coincidence with Lambert for the gallery walls to savor, Haunch of Venison takes its meaty name from the back alley in London’s West End where it started its operation in 2002. That time, the inaugural show, organized by gallery founders Harry Blain and Graham Southern, was a Rachel Whiteread survey that filled many floors of its sprawling mansion premises. Since 2007 it has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Christie’s and, in addition to London and New York, also has a space in Berlin.
Their first New York quarters were on two floors of the Rockefeller Center, home of their auctioneer parent, but as director Emilio Steinberger explains, the restricted size of the freight elevator, not to mention the low ceilings of the office premises, limited them in scale. They also wanted the greater foot traffic for the artists they represent.
There are other connections between the old and new tenants at 550: Steinberger worked for Lambert before moving to Haunch of Venison. Bettina Prentice, the PR consultant for Haunch at Prentice Art Communications, dealt with press at Lambert.
To some, a launch with a group show might indicate tentativeness and excessive diplomacy. But Boundaries Obscured, a thoughtful selection made by Steinberger, is not simply a cross-section of stable and stock. For a start, there are is an abundance of critters as befits the gallery name, from the bronze gargoyles crowning Jitish Kallat’s canvases to the gelatinous, bottom-feeding blob fish (platypus) in Patricia Piccinini’s Eulogy (2011) or the stuffed toy animals in Joana Vaconcelos’s War Games (2011). There is such an abundance of taxidermy in the Chapman’s Fucking with Nature (2009), a see-saw with copulating wild animals at one end and domesticated creatures at the other, with mice running along the middle and tipping the balance, that the piece has been held up at Customs.
The other theme is memorial, which is apropos of our ominous times but perhaps inauspicious for a launch? The Piccinini fits this theme as the man bewails the imminent extinction of the newly discovered fish. Kevin Francis Gray’s The Temporal Sitter (2011) is a Job-like marble monument to a homeless man. Uecker’s Aschemensch (Ash Man) (1986), is the only known figurative work by the op artist famed for his abstractions in nails. It was made in the wake of Chernobyl by the artist covering himself in ash and rolling on a canvas, a gesture reminiscent of the athropometries of Yves Klein.
When I shared this observation with Steinberger at the press preview he retorted that Klein was Uecker’s brother-in-law, which I had not known. That is the kind of art historical details walls can’t share.
Boundaries Obscured, September 23 to November 5, 2011. 550 West 21st Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, New York City, 212 259 0000.