Thursday, December 2

Anish Kapoor in Delhi

I love Delhi in the winters. Besides the gorgeous weather, this is also ‘exhibition season’ for the capital. The end of November brought with it the one show I had been looking forward to for a long time. This post is dedicated to Anish Kapoor’s fabulous exhibition (I couldn’t get enough of it.You can put your money on seeing me at NGMA tons before Feb rolls around).
I first came across Anish Kapoor’s work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York two years ago. I had, of course, seen pictures of his famous ‘Cloud Gate', but looking a picture of an Anish Kapoor isn’t the same as experiencing it. Since then, I have been on a quest to see more, know more if Kapoor’s work. My quest finally ended yesterday at the NGMA.
I’ll be honest. I was a little sceptical about the exhibition. Did the gallery have the means to do justice to art that was sure to be on a scale nothing less than grande? Shoddy lighting or cramped spaces could kill the exhibition. But what was I thinking. This is Anish Kapoor we’re talking about. He is, as I was quick to learn from the short documentary that preceded the exhibition, not only a genius (though not conceited in the least, rather humble and low-key actually) but also a precision machine. He does not rest until his vision is translated into reality very exactly. The documentary was actually a great introduction and though I usually give introductory videos a skip, I’m really glad I sat through this one. I’ve always wondered how artists like Anish Kapoor work. Does he have a team? Or does he spend many crazy, inspired hours alone in his studio, manically working on a vision that speaks only to him. The answer, I discovered, lay somewhere in between. While the artist worked closely with a large team,the process of creation is also a close, personal engagement that the artist has with his vision. I was particularly impressed by the way he managed to articulate his vision to the people working with him. A single, unnecessary line could take away from the whole point of the piece.
I found his take on his role as an artist really interesting.He spoke of how he was initially hesitant to take on the label of an ‘artist’ as it was a label that carried with it a great responsibility (one of my other favourites, Jeff Koons, a more flamboyant but equally genius sculptor,called creating art a ‘humanitarian act’. Now, I’m not sure if Koons was being all tongue-in-cheek about it…but we wont get into that right now!). I wonder how Anish Kapoor feels now,as an established ‘artist’.
The exhibition was nothing less than spectacular. A dozen or so pieces were on display, which is seriously impressive for a first time. I really wanted to see the piece titled ‘Shooting Into the Corner’ but Mumbai nabbed that one. But, I can live with that. Because the rest of the pieces more that made up for its absence. What I love about Anish Kapoor's work is that it compels the spectator to have an opinion. There may be a million different opinions and responses, but they are opinions nonetheless.The optical illusions of the 'Iris' could inspire a philosopher or could be just plain fun! Thousands of people visit the 'Cloud Gate' everyday. Some are experts on art and offer their expert analysis, but most people just there to enjoy the crazily spectacular ‘Bean’ (as it is fondly called in Chicago). Yesterday, the artist Arpana Caur looked at the same pieces of priceless art that a DU student was looking at. This art spoke to both of them, in a language that they understood.
After standing in a trance-like state for about ten minutes in front of his mesmerizing pieces,I found myself getting into a rather philosophical mood. The pieces compeled me to wonder about the significance of Space. As I looked into the ‘Iris’ I felt a strong desire to crawl into the cavity that seemed to get created. This cave of stainless steel was both comforting and disturbing. Comforting in its promise of cavernous space and disturbing by the way this space seemed to suddenly disappear, getting replaced with a convex bulge, as I tilted my head the other way. One of his untitled pieces, a sandstone block with a clean-edged recess coated with blue pigment, played with similar notions of space and illusions of it. I found myself wanting to stick my hand into the cavity that had been created, to feel the blue void that seemed to go on infinitely. All of the pieces seemed to have an intense visual and tactile appeal. I noticed that everyone in the room instinctively reached out to touch the pieces only to be stopped by the guards who were on edge,making sure no one put their dirty paws on the pieces (perhaps they had been told, that this display of genius was to be fiercely guarded for it was worth more than anything money could buy).

As I walked out of the gallery with Vani (my fellow exhibition junkie), our conversation meandered towards the topic of creativity and the process of creation. What gives an artist the conviction to follow an idea from the time of its conception to the time it materializes into the final ‘piece’. There must have been a hundred failed projects before the creation of the Cloud Gate or the Sky Mirror. I am frightened away by the sheer effort of following an idea to some sort of conclusion, even if it’s just in my head. I always put it away for the elusive tomorrow. And when the more literal tomorrow comes…poof! The thought is gone and thus, ‘tomorrow’ and the promise of a new thought that it carried,eludes me.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere after much anticipation m'dear. Good to see some ideas going beyond the gestation period. :)
    Here's a post about Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen who I mentioned earlier, they make giant sized versions of everyday objects:

  2. thanks V! Now comes the next keep writing! ;)

  3. I always enjoy people's insights into artwork and their interpretation of it.

    Looking forward to more posts and to doing that post with you!

    Good luck,

  4. i love geeky exchanges between you and v. i feel like you just put out what goes on in my head a lot- the idea of any sort of conclusion being scary. love the photo,also.