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Hauser & Wirth to Show Controversial Philip Guston Klan Paintings

Hauser & Wirth to Show Controversial Philip Guston Klan Paintings

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Hauser & Wirth to Show Controversial Philip Guston Klan Paintings

New York gallery Hauser & Wirth will this fall exhibit a group of paintings by Philip Guston that led to the two-year postponement of the artist’s hotly anticipated four-institution retrospective, Artnet News reports. Concerns regarding presentation of the late works, which depict hooded Klansmen, arose last summer in the wake of the killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd and the subsequent global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Curators at the four hosting institutions—the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; and London’s Tate Modern—made the contentious decision to push the exhibition forward by four years, citing a need to provide proper context for the paintings. The show was ultimately postponed to 2022, after hundreds of art world luminaries signed an open letter protesting its delay.The exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, which has represented the artist’s estate since 2015, will open September 9; titled “Philip Guston, 1969–1979,” it will feature works from the last decade of Guston’s career, a period marked by his return from Abstract Expressionism, a style he helped establish, to figuration. Citing the timing of the show as “urgent” owing to its relevance to the current cultural moment, gallery president Marc Payot noted that “the racial reckoning and widespread calls for social justice that have rightly brought so many Americans into the streets over the past couple years—particularly since the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others—echo the context in which Guston made these late works.”Many of the works in the show are coming to the gallery via loans from museums and private collections; a number of them have never been publicly exhibited. Payot says that the exhibition is not a response to the show’s postponement but rather part of the gallery’s larger plan, which to date has seen it mount shows of Guston’s work attuned to different periods of his career.“Yes, these are challenging works with painful imagery that calls to mind deep traumas,” he said. “But at the gallery, the paintings will speak for themselves. Guston’s take on the human condition and his voice for social justice are by now manifest.” The show will be accompanied by public programs and critical writings. 

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