Hauser and Wirth to show controversial paintings by Philip Guston Klan

The New York-based Hauser & Wirth gallery will exhibit this fall a group of paintings by Philip Guston that led to the two-year postponement of the artist’s highly anticipated retrospective in four institutions, Artnet news reports. Concerns about the presentation of the late works, which depict hooded Klansmen, arose last summer following the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd and the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Curators from the four host institutions – the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the Houston Museum of Fine Arts; and Tate Modern in London – took the controversial decision to advance the exhibition by four years, citing the need to provide an appropriate context for the paintings. The show was eventually postponed to 2022, after hundreds of luminaries in the art world signed a open letter protesting against his delay.

The exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, which has represented the artist’s domain since 2015, will open on September 9; titled “Philip Guston, 1969-1979”, it will present works from the last decade of Guston’s career, a period marked by his return from abstract expressionism, a style he helped to establish, to figuration. Citing the timing of the show as “urgent” because of its relevance to the current cultural moment, gallery president Marc Payot noted that “the racial calculation and widespread calls for social justice have rightly been brought so many Americans to the streets over the past couple of years – especially since the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others – echo the context in which Guston made these later works.

Many of the works in the exhibition arrive at the gallery thanks to loans from museums and private collections; a number of them have never been publicly exhibited. Payot says the exhibition is not a response to the postponement of the exhibition, but rather part of the gallery’s larger shot, which to date has seen her mount exhibitions of Guston’s work in tune with different periods of his career.

“Yes, these are difficult works with painful images that evoke deep trauma,” he said. “But at the gallery, the paintings will speak for themselves. Guston’s perspective on the human condition and his voice for social justice are now evident. The show will be accompanied by public programs and critical writings.


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