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By ROBERTA SMITHPublished: September 11, 2008Let the circles within circles be unbroken. Haunch of Venison, an art gallery owned by Christie’s, the auction house owned by the collector François Pinault, has opened a New York branch around the corner from Christie’s New York headquarters. The inaugural exhibition, clearly intended to impress, is “Abstract Expressionism: A World Elsewhere,” a sometimes beautiful but absurdly unnecessary exhibition of paintings and sculptures by those mythic market stalwarts, the leaders of the New York School. Courtesy Haunch of VenisonAn untitled 1943 Arshile Gorky work, at Haunch of Venison.Christie’s acquisition of the gallery, announced early last year, raised questions about conflict of interest, but now the arrangement seems almost quaint. After all, next week Sotheby’s will auction off a large batch of new works by Damien Hirst directly from his studio, completely bypassing art dealers, galleries, the viewing (and reviewing) public.Haunch of Venison occupies the space where Christie’s staged a wonderful rough-around-the-edges preauction exhibition of Donald Judd’s work in 2006, but you might not recognize it. There are new walls and dropped ceilings, as well as an arctic-white terrazzo floor like the one at the Marlborough gallery on West 57th Street — not a good sign. More than half the space is devoted to offices and back rooms; what remains is carved into two modest galleries surrounded by a depressing warren of corridors and cubicles.The exhibition crammed into these areas has been organized by the London art historian, critic and curator David Anfam. 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, along with routine Mark Rothkos and Arshile Gorkys and two subpar Adolph Gottliebs.Mr. Anfam said that he wanted to diversify the Abstract Expressionist cast, but the attempt is halfhearted at best, especially given the expansions achieved by other exhibitions. One small painting each by Norman Lewis and Mark Tobey, two small ones by Charles Seliger and a large triptych by Richard Pousette-Dart have been slipped in around the edges, along with photographs by Aaron Siskind, Barbara Morgan, Hans Namuth and others. The Pousette-Dart triptych is in one of the hallways, facing windows a few feet away — a travesty, although it is interesting to be forced so close to this artist’s crazy surfaces. In other words, the big names get the big walls.More than a third of the show’s 60 or so works have been lent by museums — the Whitney, the Modern and the Albright-Knox among others — which adds a veneer of respectability but leaves one wondering why museums would participate in such a redundant, aggrandizing show. The least offensive answer is that the museums are doing favors for Mr. Anfam, a respected scholar of postwar American art with numerous books and museum exhibitions to his name. Maybe they just want to remain in good standing with Christie’s, or Mr. Pinault. But probably each loan has its own route. For example, Haunch’s international managing director, Robert Fitzpatrick, is the former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which has sent Franz Kline’s 1955 “Vawdavitch.” Although about a dozen of the remaining works are lent by dealers, Mr. Fitzpatrick said that Haunch of Venison, at least, is not selling anything in the show. That may be too slender a hair to split.This show should be seen for its high points and a few of Mr. Anfam’s juxtapositions. But 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.“Abstract Expressionism: A World Elsewhere” continues through Nov. 12 at Haunch of Venison New York, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, at 49th Street, 20th Floor; (212) 259-0000; haunchofvenison.com.
If you like money more then credibility, this is the place for you.
Bad wrap because of being big budget. If you know them, truly great people to work with. And their artists aren't all rolling in fat paychecks as it seems from the outside. They invest in the shows and promotion of the artists.
May not survive this round of cuts at Christies. News soon.
Some of their staffers are very nice, others are decidedly unpleasant. For a gallery with that kind of financial backing, getting money they owe you can be like squeezing blood from a stone.
I know several artists who work with Haunch of Venison and they are all very happy. They are actually one of the best and more committed galleries around.If you want broad support for your work and top-level staff this is your gallery.
Strong arm bully tactics to wrench art out of existing collections for secondary sales.
above poster is an idiot. strong arm tactics to force people to sell? come on. who is forced to sell a piece of art by a gallery? no one. lets hear an example of some poor helpless collector forced to sell by a gallery to back up this foolishness.
above poster, also an idiotthe artworld is a smokescreen for the larger workings of the Art Market, which is a collusive back-scratching market where all sides at some point agree they are blessed to exist in this business, strong arming is a daily event, yes, collectors get strong armed all the time, you like that new Ai Weiwei work?? you do,..????well you can have it in your home, if you let me sell off your Warhols, happens daily
Wow - thanks for your great insights into the art market. Hate to break it to you - but That is what all secondary market dealers do - calling haunch a stong armed bully is unjustified unless you provide a real example of them showing up at a widows house with a billy club and a bag of cash.
They weren't saying that other secondary market dealers don't strong arm. They were just pointing out that haunch does. After being named an idiot for making such a remark, I think that's a completely reasonable rebuttal to make.
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