I recently had the opportunity to attend a contemporary and modern art show in Chicago with one of my girlfriends, which I then didn’t write about for weeks because traveling for even a weekend throws my work schedule into panic mode these days. A-whoops. But the company was delightful and it was a nice day to be out on Navy Pier.
The art itself was a mix of hit and miss, trending toward the miss, but I was surprised and delighted to find one consistent theme: friggin’ everybody had a Deborah Butterfield horse.
You know these horses, even if you don’t know that you know them. They’re everywhere. Ms. Butterfield seems to be the go-to for every municipal government or small, private museum that wants a large installation and doesn’t want to scare anyone off.
The fine arts consensus is, transparently, “Woo, ponies!” These are not cheap sculptures — the ones we saw at the art show were going for six figures — but an awful lot of institutions seem to agree that they’re worth the sticker price.
I’ve seen them in Minneapolis. I’ve seen them in Des Moines. I saw one quite recently in Estes Park, CO, just outside the Rocky Mountain National Park. Museums have them, universities have them, large corporations put them in lobbies, and anyone with an outdoors sculpture park sort of thing friggin’ loves them.
Ponies for everyone.
I think my girlfriend and I were mostly enchanted by the massive exception curators and gallery owners seem willing to give Ms. Butterfield — representational art is, judging by the selection we saw, right out, unless you happen to make pretty pony sculptures. Then you get a pass from the experimental abstraction crap.
Ok, to be fair, we were also enchanted because “ponies.” But it’s nice to know we’re not the only fans out there.