Based in London, Mumbai-born sculptor Anish Kapoor is best known for his large-scale sculptures and experiments with colour, scale and a vast range of materials. He has worked with sand, coloured pastes, rope, canvas, titanium and wood. The versatile artist regularly investigates the manipulation of reality through the reflective metals used in his work.
"I'm interested in things that are not what they first seem to be," he explains. "Reflective surfaces engage people directly, fusing object, viewer and environment into one physical, constantly fluctuating form."
Kapoor has exhibited extensively all around the world and has received numerous awards and honours, including Britain's Turner Prize. He is now working on a series of five site-specific public commissions in Middlesbrough, England.
The first of these enormous sculptures was given the name Temenos, a Greek term meaning sacred place, and was unveiled in May last year. Those interested in finding out more about his work have a number of opportunities to do so this year with exciting solo exhibitions in Paris and Manchester.
Even for an artist such as Kapoor, who is used to creating larger-than-life sculptures for enormous parks and city squares, the opportunity to fill the 13,500-square-metre space of the Grand Palais in central Paris has proved to be one of his biggest challenges. From May 13 to June 20, the public will be able get an up-close view of how his creativity has been put to the test.
"The 19th-century steel-and-glass pavilion of the Grand Palais has to be one of the most remarkable spaces in the world, with its vast volume and 45-metre-high ceiling," Kapoor says. "The amount of light which streams in from all angles was a great inspiration for me, and the building's transparency makes the interior seem even bigger."
Kapoor is the latest artist to be invited to participate in the annual Paris sculpture exhibition Momenta, which has seen other artistic heavyweights, including American Richard Serra and German Anselm Kiefer, conquer the challenge of filling the vast fin-de-siècle, Grand Palais.
The British artist explains that he plans to use vibrant colours and take full advantage of the entire 45-metre-high central nave.
"There will be a definite ‘wow' factor for the public as they move around exploring the work," says the silver-haired artist. "Art can provoke a wide variety of memories and reactions in people, and these, in turn, can change the perception of the work from one individual to another."
Kapoor, who is equally at home designing sculptures for interior spaces or open areas, has aimed to generate a sense of both in and out with this project.
"The scale of this sculpture-cum-installation will also provoke personal contemplation, a sense of spatial distortion and of time in slow motion for the public as they move around it."
The artist has been producing powerful, meditative pieces since the early 1980s and regularly makes forceful use of the "less is more" principle.
His sculptures, which have been installed around the world from New York to London and from Chicago to New Delhi, have a vertiginous, mind-bending and captivating impact on visitors.
He uses materials as diverse as polished mirrors, powdered pigments, unsurfaced concrete and fatty wax to produce forms that are at once organic and minimalist.
While Kapoor is best known for his gargantuan sculptures, those looking to enjoy his work, pocket-size, instead of park-size, can slip on to their finger the stunning minimalist-styled ring he has designed for the Italian jewellery house Bvlgari.
Kapoor regularly refers to his metal creations, many of which would easily fill a tennis court, as voids, due to their play with light which takes the eye far inside the piece and breaks conventional boundaries of space and infinity.
The same can be applied to his first collaboration with Bvlgari to celebrate the B Zero1 ring collection's tenth anniversary. "I was fascinated to see if I could achieve the same effect as my larger works but on a miniature scale," he says.
The artist's vision for this simple but elegant ring is based on a band of concave reflective stainless steel, sandwiched between two pink gold rims embossed with the famed jewellery house's name in capital letters.
Bvlgari has long been renowned for creating pieces of luxury jewellery that combine unexpected and whimsical metals set with precious and semi-precious stones.
The B Zero1 range of rings is one of the Italian jewellery house's most popular. "There have been more than 1.2 million sold worldwide over the past ten years and Anish Kapoor's version is proving to be one of the most sought-after pieces," says Bvlgari CEO Francesco Trapani. "The range has seen a number of variations in design since it was launched in 2000 but Anish Kapoor has brought a fresh look to it, which is perfect for the second decade of the 21st century," he adds.
Kapoor is adamant that the ring will appeal to those who are a bit daring and appreciate simplicity, which, in turn, is complexity. "Due to its almost minimalist curved design, what is reflected in the band becomes distorted," he explains. "It's a chance to see the world in a different light and to look through reality."
Over the years B Zero1 rings have been produced in gold, with contrasting bands of various precious metals and also with or without diamonds.
Kapoor's tenth-anniversary version brings a new dimension to the piece through his interest in reflection and refraction of light. Even with its small dimensions, his emblematic, mind-bending visual effects are quite pronounced.
"I think there has always been a cross-over between art and fashion, because both areas are about creativity," the artist says. Kapoor's Bvlgari ring served as the inspiration for him to create a much larger sculpture, which was auctioned off late last year. The proceeds benefited the Save the Children's fund. "I am dedicated to this charity and was delighted to use my sculpture to further their work with needy children," he says. For those who love art and use it as an expression of themselves, Kapoor's ring is the perfect opportunity to shine on a daily basis. It is available at all Bvlgari stores for about $1,100 (Dh4,037).
Solo exhibition in Manchester
The Manchester Art Gallery is showing, until June 5, a retrospective exhibition of Anish Kapoor's works. Titled ‘Flashback', the show explores the artist's fascination with contrasts of light and dark, form and void, inside and outside, surface and depth, abstraction and figuration, and reflection and absorption. More than 14 important and groundbreaking sculptures spanning three decades highlight the creativity of Britain's most versatile sculptor. This is an excellent opportunity to see emblematic pieces such as ‘Turning the World Inside Out', created in 1995, and ‘Void' (1994) up close. Visit www.manchestergalleries.org for more information. The exhibition will tour to Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery from November 19 to March 11, 2012.
Anish Kapoor reaches for the sky at the 2012 London Olympics
December will see another of Anish Kapoor’s mammoth sculptures unveiled, this time at London’s Olympic Park. The steel counter-levered tower, named ‘London Orbit’, consists of spirals and curves which seem to defy gravity and have a crazy rollercoaster look to them. At its peak, more than 115 metres above the ground, a public observation deck will afford visitors with fabulous views over the Olympic Games site and east London. It will be slightly taller than Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty, just short of the Great Pyramid of Giza and considerably shorter than the structure to which it is being compared, the Eiffel Tower.
Kapoor called the project “the commission of a lifetime”. He said he was trying to convey a sense of instability and a tower that could be viewed differently from different parts of the city. “It is an object that needs a journey, a journey around the object but also up and through the object. It needs real participation and engagement,” he said. “This is an object I hope will change the face of this part of London now and into the future.”
Kapoor has collaborated on the project with his friend Cecil Balmond, one of the world’s leading structural engineers. Approximately 1,400 tonnes of steel will be used. The plan is for work to be completed in December.
Kapoor said one of his references was the Tower of Babel. “There is a kind of medieval sense to it, of reaching up to the sky, building the impossible. A procession, if you like. It’s a long, winding spiral: a folly that aspires to go even above the clouds.”
Scott Adams is a writer based in Madrid.