Anish Kapoor or Mr Bean?

I’ve just been watching The World According to Anish Kapoor on Sky Arts. It was an hour long. This extract was only a few minutes long and deals with his mirror sculptures, specifically his bean-shaped sculpture in Chicago, Cloud Gate:

“I’ve been making mirror pieces for a long time. It must be since the early nineties. I came to them out of an interest in the idea that objects are not what they say they are. The previous body of work had been void works – objects with dark interiors. It was an attempt, in a way, to make a non-object, to make an object that doesn’t exist. Now I began to wonder if it is possible to make a mirrored object in the same way – an object full of mirror.


“Most of the mirror pieces I’ve made over the years have been concave forms. The whole implication of concave mirrors is that they engage the object but also the space around the object so they are not just the camouflaging of the object in the space. They actually actively engage the space – the space of the viewer – and that’s my main objective.

“Concave mirrors are profoundly mysterious because they have a focus, and that focus has a physical effect on the body of the viewer. So when you look, you are physically discomforted by this point in space, which is where the lines of the light cross in front of the mirror. It’s a kind of mystical point where light reverses; from the image the right way up, it becomes the image the wrong way up. And that has a kind of effect on your body – gives you the sense that you’re going to fall – it’s an effect of vertigo. Now one of the definitions of the sublime in art is this sense of falling, this sense of falling into space.


(Voice over) In 2004 Kapoor installed in Chicago, the birthplace of modernist architecture, the sculpture Cloud Gate, twenty tonnes of stainless steel, a playful yet monumental object, which was enthusiastically adopted by the public.


“When I looked at the site in Chicago there were some things I felt were important. First of all, it was a new vista on the city. Underneath the park there had previously been railway lines – the park had been built over the railway lines. And it was a view of Chicago that had never been seen before. The other thing that was important was that Chicago, in some ways, is a vertical city, that everything there is standing up and I felt the right response to both of these was not to do something vertical, not to compete, if you like, with the verticality of the city but to do the opposite – to work horizontally. So I came up with this form which is effectively a kind of gate. It’s an arch, completing itself in a single volume , with an interior that dives up into the form but forms a gate through which you look back at the city.


“Now, I wanted, of course, to have a horizontal object that collected in the verticality of the city and that’s literally what it does. Its exterior picks up the reflections of all the buildings around and substantially the sky which is always changing. And then as you go into under the object of course it forms a kind of architecture. It becomes a place, virtually a building, but it has this interior vault which does the same thing to your reflection as the object as a whole is doing to the reflections of the buildings of the city.


“I’m interested in the way the viewer is continually implicated. It is not simply an object you look at. It’s an object that induces a kind of participation, in some way, between the object and the viewer.”


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
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7 Responses to Anish Kapoor or Mr Bean?

  1. Is the first photo the one at the Playhouse in Nottingham?

  2. aremraf says:

    I think the pictures of the objects are a lot more interesting and fun (but so is any ‘Hall of mirrors’) than the accompanying words

    • It is always a conundrum. Should the artist try and explain the ideas behind a work or just let it stand or fall on its own merit? There are those who never read the label on the wall next to the picture and others who like to know ‘where the artist is coming from’.

  3. seascapesaus says:

    Stainless steel actually provides entertainment in public spaces. I love these distortions and reflections. His commentary is ok, but we don’t need it to enjoy this work.

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