Why he matters: For an artist like this Mumbai-born maverick, the beauty of public art lies in its ability to reach a wider audience. And time and again, Anish Kapoor has demonstrated just that with his epic body of work, writes Shaikh Ayaz.
Every day, at Chicago’s most touristy spot, a certain Mr. Bean amuses perplexedvisitors and selfie hunters alike. And we’re not referring to Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling television character. This is the other Bean. An enormous, curved steel sculpture, formally known as Cloud Gate. It’s become a landmark in the Windy City since its unveiling in 2006.
We’re going to assume that everyone is familiar with Sir Anish Kapoor, the visionary sculptor behind Cloud Gate—and countless other statement-making public art works beyond the Atlantic, such as ArcelorMittal Orbit in London, Sky Mirror in Nottingham, and the very controversial Dirty Corner in the Palace of Versailles, which was unfortunately vandalised and derided by some as “Queen’s Vagina.”
Wildly successful, critically acclaimed and obscenely wealthy, the Mumbai-born British-Indian sculptor shouldn’t care what a motley crew of vandals think of his pieces. This is a man whose Instagram handle reads “dirty_corner,” and The New Yorker recently noted that virtually all his oeuvre can be defined as “sexual.”
Kapoor is a maverick of the art world, who has dedicated his life to bringing cutting-edge art out of the white-cube conventions and closer to where it really belongs—in public spaces where a wider range of ordinary people can engage with it. Artists like him want their art to be an immersive experience. And viewers are expected to not just see these works but participate by responding to them, adding to them and having a meaningful conversation around them.
Not surprisingly, when the Turner Prize winner had his first Indian retrospective over a decade ago in the city of his birth, it was a homecoming unlike any other. The show marked a departure, in that it took place at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studios rather than an art gallery, a location chosen for its ability to hold his epic productions as well as its connection to the city’s cinematic past. And in 2016, Kapoor bought exclusive rights to Vantablack, the “blackest black” that absorbs 99.965 percent of visible light.
“You could disappear into it,” the artist had declared. Well, you could say the same thing about Kapoor’s overall body of work, innit?
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