A Grand Abstract Expressionist Gesture Opens Haunch of Venison’s New York Gallery


By Emily Waldorf

An untitled work from 1943 by Arshile Gorky, on view at Haunch of Venison's New York gallery through November 12, 2008

Christie’s owned gallery Haunch of Venison opened its New York location on September 12 with an impressive lineup of 63 blue-chip Abstract Expressionist works. The not for sale show, titled Abstract Expressionism:  A World Elsewhere, includes many works borrowed from museums in a grand gesture to make an impressive début on the New York contemporary art scene.

The show is curated by well-respected London based critic, curator, and art historian David Anfam and includes artists such as Barnett Newman, Aaron Siskind, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Clyfford Still, David Smith, Willem de Kooning, and Arshile Gorky.

The exhibition is billing itself as the first major retrospective of Abstract Expressionism in New York in over 40 years. The New York Times, art critic Roberta Smith wondered whether a retrospective of Abstract Expressionism was even necessary, however, since it has been done very well so many times before.  She points out in her review that the show has an undeniable all-star cast of artists and a few moments of curatorial genius but ultimately falls short due to its predictability and lack of soul:

“Although there is plenty to look at, it recaps a story already told too many times, this time with the crowding and randomness of an auction-house hang. Still, you’ll find some gems: five good but small Pollocks, two exceptional David Smith sculptures, great paintings by Clyfford Still and Willem de Kooning, a wonderful early Robert Motherwell collage, a beautiful red Ad Reinhardt and an unfamiliar Barnett Newman painting…The main lesson here is that it takes more than great art, new walls and a no-sale policy to make an art gallery. Galleries are forms of expression; they need at least a smattering of vision. Absent that, the effect is soulless and corporate.”

In any case, witnessing the much-hyped gallery’s inaugural show complete with blockbuster artists, star curator, and exciting renovated space just around the corner from Christie’s, should be more than enough reason to see the exhibition.  Then ArtsÉtoile readers can make up their own minds whether they think Abstract Expressionism:  A World Elsewhere is a successful exhibition or whether they think it symbolizes yet another contemporary art foray into the overly commercial and predictable.

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