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Stuart Comer on London’s Horse Hospital

‘With Brexit hanging like a lead weight above the city’s new forest of glass towers, the memory of the Horse Hospital’s stone floor feels grounding’

Cathy Ward and Eric Wright, 'Transromantik', 2000, installation view. Courtesy: The Horse Hospital, London

Cathy Ward and Eric Wright, ‘Transromantik’, 2000, installation view. Courtesy: The Horse Hospital, London

I first encountered the stone tiled floor of London’s Horse Hospital when I attended a reading there by the US novelist Dennis Cooper in 2000. It was my first week after moving from Los Angeles to London. Having known Cooper from similar independent and alternative arts venues in California, such as Beyond Baroque and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, there was a nice tension between the familiar SoCal grit of his voice and the more Dickensian atmosphere of the Horse Hospital. The event had been organized by the artist and writer Ian White, whom I first met that evening. His leather jacket, Essex accent and political precision quickly became central fixtures in my life. The climate in London in 2000 was a far cry from 1993, when the Horse Hospital was launched with the Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren retrospective, ‘Vive Le Punk!’. Cool Britannia was swiftly segueing into a more cosmopolitan art world in a city soon to be reshaped radically by globalization. From the vantage of 2019, with Brexit hanging like a lead weight above London’s new forest of glass towers, the memory of the Horse Hospital’s stone floor feels grounding; it was the bedrock on which White – now lost to lymphoma – first honed a cultural voice that still echoes with the faint promise of dissent.

Main Image: Horse Hospital Exterior. Courtesy: Horse Hospital, London; photograph: Des Willie

Stuart Comer is chief curator of media and performance art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.

Issue 200

First published in Issue 200

January - February 2019
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