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“Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection” at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
Pigments, Wax, Steel - Anish Kapoor at the MCA in Sydney


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Pigments, Wax, Steel
Anish Kapoor at the MCA in Sydney

Due to their visual power and emotional effect, Anish Kapoor’s sculptures are some of the best-known works of art in the world. Now, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney presents the British-Indian artist’s ambitious show, his first in Australia. The project is sponsored by Deutsche Bank, which has been supporting the MCA for more than ten years. Among the exhibition’s highlights is Memory – a gigantic sculpture comprised of 154 steel panels that Kapoor created as a commissioned work for the Deutsche Guggenheim.

His mirrored stainless steel sculpture Cloud Gate (2006) in Chicago’s Millennium Park weighs a total of 110 tons. In 2002, he installed a 155-meter-long, 35-meter-high blood-red membrane in the turbine hall of the Tate Modern; this was followed in 2011 by a PVC structure filled with 72,000 cubic meters of air at the Grand Palais. Anish Kapoor completed his most monumental project to date for this year’s Summer Olympics in London: the ArcelorMittal Orbit. The hybrid sculpture/viewing platform is made of 1,400 tons of fire-red steel that spiral upwards to a height of 115 meters in the form of intertwining strands of DNA. Kapoor’s tendency to overwhelm through sheer size, however, is something his critics are wary of. Yet the physical presence connected to monumentality  is crucial to his works. "Scale has a bad name," the artist explained in an interview with ArtMag, "but it's an integral tool in dealing with space."  

Memory (2008), Kapoor’s commissioned work for the Deutsche Guggenheim, is one of his most elaborate sculptures. 154 elements of Cor-Ten steel fit together to make an organic-technoid form. The work, made as a commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2008, weighs 24 tons, yet it appears almost bafflingly “immaterial.” The huge rust-colored object seems to defy gravity and only lightly touches the room’s boundaries — walls, floor, and ceiling. Furthermore, the work of the Turner Prizewinner invites the viewer to become active in that to properly see Memory requires approaching it from a range of different spatial perspectives. The artist describes this process as a "diagram that can never be completed.”

Following an appearance in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Memory can now be seen in the first major Kapoor show in Australia. Over two floors, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney offers an overview of the career of the artist, who was born in 1956 in Mumbai and has been living in London since the early 1970s. The show is sponsored by Deutsche Bank, which has a longstanding alliance with both the artist and the museum. Deutsche Bank has been cooperating with the MCA for over a decade, supporting the museum’s ambitious kids’ and youth program as its Education Partner. Along with numerous works on paper and Memory, the Deutsche Bank Collection also owns another important sculpture of Kapoor’s: Turning the World Upside Down (1996), one of his first stainless steel works.  

Together with Tony Cragg, Barry Flanagan, and Rachel Whiteread, Kapoor belongs to the group of artists that radically reanimated British sculpture in the early 1980s by implementing new materials such as plastics and pigments, among other things. The work 1000 Names (1979–80) from this period can be seen at the MCA. The “pigment sculptures” arose after a trip to his native country India. The work group consists of geometrically or organically shaped wooden objects installed on the floor or wall. Kapoor covered them with brilliantly hued pigment powder some of which separates from the surface and surrounds the object like a kind of colored aura. He also works with pigments in Void (1989), which is covered in dark blue colored pigment that plays with perception: depending on the viewing perspective, it can appear convex or concave. As the eye becomes lost in the deep blue, it seems impossible to grasp the true dimension and form of the work.

Another highlight of the exhibition is My Red Homeland (2003). 25 tons of wax and Vaseline together form a round floor sculpture 12 meters in diameter. A large metal arm turns slowly on its own axis, stirring up the colored mass and reshaping it anew. Chaos and order, stillness and movement, color and materiality create a dense and impressive experience for the viewer. Kapoor reveals spaces that are both physical and metaphysical. His work thrives on the tension between form and formlessness, the material and immaterial. It is both fascinating and disturbing, and it resists direct interpretation. And it’s just this puzzling multiplicity of meaning that gives it its deeply spiritual quality.

Anish Kapoor
20 December 2012 -1 April 2013
MCA, Sydney

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