Anish Kapoor is widely recognised for his monumental public works and installations that often incorporate reflective surfaces and curvature as well as unconventional sculptural mediums like water.Read More
A preoccupation with voids, the body and the relationship between man and his surrounding environment further characterise his works.
Kapoor studied in London, where he attended Hornsey College of Art (1973–77) and Chelsea College of Arts (1977–78).
Since gaining recognition for his biomorphic sculptures of the 1980s, made using pure pigment and traditional materials, Anish Kapoor has experimented with mirrored and recessive surfaces, new technologies, and scale.
Several of Kapoor's early works, seemingly rising out of the floor or wall, underscore his preoccupation with blood and female anatomy as with As if to celebrate, I discovered a mountain blooming with red flowers (1981). Created for the exhibition British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century. Part 2: Symbol and Imagination 1951—980 (1981—2) at London's Whitechapel Gallery, the sculpture consists of three groups of geometric forms made from wood, cement and polystyrene, and covered in pure pigment that spills over the floor.
Each shape references the human physique: the three-peaked mountain in red as the body; the pair of red ellipsoids as breasts; while the boat-like form, the only yellow object of the group, suggests movement. Kapoor derived the first part of the title, 'As if to celebrate', from a Haiku poem, and the rest came from a Hindu myth in which a goddess is born out of a mountain of male gods' bodies.
Working with traditional materials and techniques, Kapoor became associated with a group of young artists—among them Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Antony Gormley and Shirazeh Houshiary—known as the New British Sculptors.
In the following decade, Kapoor's sculptures progressively grew as he began to explore the idea of the void by constructing forms that contain cavities or disappear into the floor or wall. In the sculpture Void Field (1989)—presented at the 44th Venice Biennale and for which he was awarded the Premio Duemila Prize—the top surfaces of sandstone blocks are pierced with a hole and filled with black pigment. Contrasting the mass of the blocks with the voids within them, Kapoor explored the tensions between presence and absence, being and non-being, and internal space and darkness.
Kapoor later multiplied the scale of the void with Marsyas (2002)—commissioned for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern—by creating a hollow, trumpet-like structure out of red plastic membrane that extended over the monumental gallery space.
Kapoor's exploration of the void led him to experiment with the blackness of black paint, resulting in his controversial acquisition of exclusive rights to the super-black pigment Vantablack in 2016. Following what Kapoor's critics viewed as a monopoly, British artist Stuart Semple raised funds to create Black 3.0, which is purported to be even blacker than Vantablack, that is available to all for use except Kapoor.
From the mid-1990s onwards, Kapoor increasingly used mirrored surfaces in his works, as in the three concave, stainless steel discs of Her Blood (1998), which are presented on the floor or on the wall and reflect their environment from different angles. A later work such as Blood Mirror (2000) similarly consists of a stainless disc, featuring red in its lacquered and highly polished surface. The simple concave shape in both works appears to be a void from a distance and becomes activated when the spectator steps closer to it, contorting reality to subvert his or her sense of perception.
Throughout Kapoor's works, there exists a sense of theatricality—one that requires audience participation to complete its experience. In conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2016, Kapoor said, 'There is something about the performative in a work, where the work almost switches itself on as you enter its space. I think it's terribly important because that's a conversation between a viewer and an object.'
Enacting this performativity is his 'Non-Object' series of 'twisted' stainless steel sculptures that invite the spectator to walk around them and study the constantly morphing reflections. Similarly, Ishi's Light (2003)—an ovoid shell with a fibreglass exterior and a lacquered red interior—opens partially to allow the spectator into its space. The concave forms in both 'Non-Objects' and Ishi's Light seek to engage the participant's senses both optically by projecting distorted reflections and aurally by amplifying sound within their parameters.
Recognised for his incessant exploration of innovative materials and technology, Kapoor is to present new works created using carbon nanotechnology at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022.
Kapoor's public sculptures are celebrated for their monumental sizes and spectacular feats of design and engineering. Cloud Gate (2004), dedicated to Chicago's Millennium Park in 2006, is among his most known works and exemplifies his brand of spectacle through simple forms. The 110-ton stainless steel sculpture, nicknamed 'the Bean' for its resemblance to an upturned bean, enchants the public with its seamless surface and perpetually shifting reflections.
Other landmarks by Kapoor include ArcelorMittal Orbit (2012) , a 115-metres-tall tower made of red tubular steel, erected for London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; and Descension (2014), an unconventional sculpture made of infinitely swirling water for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
A Turner Prize winner (1991), Kapoor has exhibited internationally in major institutions and galleries.
Select solo exhibitions include Anish Kapoor, Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning, Shenzhen (2021); Anish Kapoor, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2020); Anish Kapoor, Lisson Gallery, London (2019); Anish Kapoor, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo (2016); Gathering Clouds, Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2016); Anish Kapoor and Rembrandt, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2015).
Select group exhibitions include Chaos & Order, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp (2021); Lasting Impressions, Dellasposa Gallery, London (2020); Reflections on Space and Time, Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo (2019); Minimalism: Space, Light, Object, National Gallery Singapore and ArtScience Museum, Singapore (2018); A Journey, Kewenig, Berlin (2017); Seeing Round Corners: The Art of the Circle, Turner contemporary, Margate (2016); Whorled Explorations, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2014).
Anish Kapoor's website can be found here.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021