Early critic response favours Anish Kapoor India show

INDIAN ARTISTS RETROSPECTIVE ART EVENT

Of Anish Kapoor’s Delhi-Mumbai show, which opened in November this year, we could have expected nothing short of praiseworthy. The artist, however, seemed humbled: “A return is always going to be difficult – quite frightening, actually.” Although his installations and sculptures can be found literally around the globe, it is his first time to showcase his pieces in his native India. Below, we offer an explanation of the roots of this retrospective and round up some of the early responses from critics.

Anish Kapoor stands in front of one of his installations in London. Photograph by Oli Scarff/Getty Images. Image taken from guardian.co.uk.

Anish Kapoor stands in front of one of his installations in London. Photograph by Oli Scarff/Getty Images. Image taken from guardian.co.uk.

Click here to read more about “Anish Kapoor: Delhi Mumbai” on the British Council website.

About Kapoor’s first show in India

In a kind of homecoming, the Government of India’s Ministry of Culture has collaborated with several organisations including the National Gallery of Modern Art, the British Council, the Lisson Gallery, the Tata Group and a Louis Vuitton association to bring one of the most influential Indian artists of today back home. For the first time, Indian audiences can experience his works first-hand. The retrospective exhibit is the fulfillment of an idea conceived ten years ago when the prospect of an exhibit was discussed in one of Anish Kapoor’s talks with the director of the National Gallery of Modern Art.

The whole exhibition is presented over two sites, one at the newly constructed Exhibition Hall of the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and the other at the Mehboob Studios in Bandra, Mumbai, and is so far the grandest and most ambitious project to be undertaken by the artist. Both exhibitions are composed of works from from his early pigment-based phase to his most recent steel and wax installations, a few of which were included in the recent record-breaking exhibition of Kapoor’s work at the Royal Academy London. Some other sculptures on display include To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red (1981), a reproduction of a doorway made from sandstone and pigment, S-Curve (2006) and his signature installation, Shooting Into The Corner (2008-2009).

Façade of the National Gallery for Modern Art in New Delhi, the venue for one part of Anish Kapoor's first Indian show. Image taken from localyte.com.

Façade of the National Gallery for Modern Art in New Delhi, the venue for one part of Anish Kapoor's first Indian show. Image taken from localyte.com.

The exhibit in Mumbai ran parallel to his display at the newly constructed Exhibition Hall at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi. The exhibition in Delhi also forms half of what Anish Kapoor considers to be a two-city display. “The show in Delhi is also in two parts,” he states on livemint.com. “There’s a series of architectural models from about 25 years ago, and then a group of works that’s more or less retrospective. In this space, I wanted to deal with a whole different possibility. Just two opposite bodies of work.”

In a press release, Prof. Rajeev Lochan, Director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, said, “I am delighted that what we had been dreaming of for the past nine years has finally come to fruition. The Kapoor exhibition is one of the largest projects we have done since the Picasso exhibition in 2001, not just in its scale of the actual works, but also in terms of the international stature of the artist, including partnerships amongst various organisations, and its outreach.”

There seems to be much enthusiasm and high hopes surrounding the artist and his first homecoming exhibit. According to a write-up in the Global Post, at a dinner that followed the exhibition’s opening host Sir Richard Stagg, the British High Commissioner, commented that “it was one of biggest manifestations of British culture in India since 1947,” the year India gained independence from Britain. India’s secretary for culture, Jawhar Sircar, referred to Kapoor as, “Son of India, pride of Britain and wonder of the world of art.”

Anish Kapoor's 'Shooting Into The Corner' (2009) is considered one of his most exciting works. Image taken from ngmaindia.gov.in.

Anish Kapoor's 'Shooting Into The Corner' (2009) is considered one of his most exciting works. Image taken from ngmaindia.gov.in.

In an article from DNA India, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who inaugurated the opening of the show at the National Gallery of Modern Art, stated in her opening speech, “Beyond the technical virtuosity, however, is the singularity of his artistic vision. His forms convey intriguing dualities: the earthy and the ethereal, permanence and impermanence, stillness and movement, darkness and light, illusion and reality.” Questioning the lines between illusion and reality and the notions of space and motion seems to be a trademark (and even an after-effect) of Anish Kapoor’s works.

What are the critics saying about Kapoor’s India show?

Quoting from an article on CNN Go, “‘Self-generated’ is what the artist calls his sculpture,” British curator Norman Rosenthal wrote in the catalogue essay, “even when he is absent, it is constantly changing and reinventing itself.”

For Sumati Mehrishi of the Express News Service, “Anish’s works are ‘static’, so to speak. Yet you feel defeated, dwarfed by the way they literally move you. His work forces the eye to move rapidly, and the mind to think rapidly.”

Riddhi Doshi of IBN Live.com writes, as if in opposition to Mehrishi’s comment, “As none of his works are static, they are all in motion, compelling the viewer to look at it for a long time.”

In an article in livemint.com, Supriya Nair states, “An Anish Kapoor work invites a definition of the space around his sculptures as the sculpture itself.”

Anish Kapoor's 'Cloud Gate' (2004) stands in Millennium Park in Chicago and is one of the most visited public sculptures in the world. Image taken from anishkapoor.com.

Anish Kapoor's 'Cloud Gate' (2004) stands in Millennium Park in Chicago and is one of the most visited public sculptures in the world. Image taken from anishkapoor.com.

With regards to the exhibit, Alastair Sooke of The Telegraph says, “The space’s stripped-back brickwork offsets the flawless finish of the sculptures, which distort the reflections of passers-by, like those reality-bending mirrors that often grace travelling fairgrounds. The more you look into their vertiginous reflective surfaces, the more they seem to dissolve reality.”

Absence of added novelty notwithstanding, audiences have so far given positive reactions and the works themselves seem to have engaged their viewers even when many of the pieces have been shown publicly a number of times before.

Deepanjana Pal of Forbes India Magazine highlights this: “The contrast between the clinical precision of his process and the dark turbulence at the emotional core of his works is something that struck me while I walked around Blood and I’ve seen it in different manifestations over the years.”

Moreover she adds, “If you look for connections in his career, as well as between yourself and the art you’re viewing, an Anish Kapoor show can be emotionally intense and visually fascinating. Despite their size, his sculptures are often remarkably introverted, refusing to reveal anything more than your own reflection at best. To understand them, you must view them through your own kaleidoscopic vision.”

Says Madhu Jain of DNAIndia, “One small confession: I went to the Mehboob Studios expecting to be underwhelmed. I came out stunned and truly engaged. I had never heard an Indian artist say that he/she was a fan of another artist. It is amazing how many told me they were Anish Kapoor fans. Welcome home, Mr. Kapoor.”

Why does Anish Kapoor so often seem to hit if off with both critics and audiences? Artist Shukla Sawant from the School for Arts and Aesthetics of Jawaharlal Nehru University, as quoted in the Hindustan Times, provides us with a possible explanation: “The size of his works invites the mind,” she says.

“Then, his area of work is very broad. At one end he makes works that would deteriorate – like his wax works in Svayambhav. On the other hand, there are works sturdy and ‘insured’, like the interactive steel works. He uses pigment keeping international sensibilities in mind. He takes interest in what interests the world. He uses material in the most sophisticated way. This is why his installations embrace you from all sides.”

Click below to watch a video of Anish Kapoor’s Indian show (2:44 mins) by Indian news channel MiD-DAY or view it on YouTube.

About Anish Kapoor

Born in Mumbai, Turner Prize-winning Anish Kapoor moved to London in 1973 to pursue art studies and has since become an internationally acclaimed artist and sculptor, a Royal Academician and a Commander of the British Empire.

Kapoor is known for his sculptures and public art that adorns cities around the world. One of his most famous pieces is Cloud Gate (2004), a £14.3m, 100-ton sculpture that can be found in Chicago, is considered to be one of the most visited public art installations in the world. Other well-known pieces are Sky Mirror at New York’s Rockefeller Center and Memory in Berlin and New York.

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Related Topics: Indian artists, gallery shows, sculpture

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The exhibition will be organised over two sites in New Delhi and Mumbai and is the largest and most ambitious exhibition project ever to be developed on Kapoor’s work.

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