Anish Kapoor ePublication

This award winning application documents Anish Kapoor’s practice through the lens of his solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. In a world first, this app is a 'living catalogue' which evolved over the course of the exhibition. This has allowed the Museum to present the experience of the exhibition and its installation through interviews, photographs, interactive panoramas and videos recorded on site and in the Kapoor studio.

A traditional printed catalogue produced months ahead of an exhibition fails to capture the installation challenges and the final presentation in situ.

This ePublication has unfolded in three steps: a preview, the installation and the exhibition itself.

  • The Preview Edition launched the day of the exhibition opening and focused on the breadth of Kapoor’s practice.
  • The Installation Edition explores the challenge of the exhibition installation through video interviews, images and essays.
  • The Final Edition reflects on the Anish Kapoor exhibition. It includes interactive panoramas of the exhibition and a series of different perspectives on the exhibition from curators, visitors and MCA staff.

It is three publications rolled into one, made possible by an innovative digital publishing platform and the cooperation of Anish Kapoor’s studio.

About Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor has created some of the most memorable artworks of our times. Since the early 1980s, he has produced bodies of work that push the boundaries of sculpture through an exploration of the nature of perception in relation to space, form and mass. His ability to transform material into astonishing and often perplexing works of art which raise philosophical questions about the world and our position within it, have led to comparisons with alchemy, the ancient magical power to transform an ordinary substance into something of great value.

Anish Kapoor in his studio
Anish Kapoor in his studio in London

In the early 1980s, a new generation of British sculptors emerged including Kapoor, Richard Deacon, Shirazeh Houshiary and Tony Cragg who shared a common concern with making work that challenged the definition of sculpture in formal terms. From the outset, Kapoor created works that defy categorisation. Indeed he has described himself as a painter as well as a sculptor. The exhibition at the MCA includes the early work with pigment, 1000 Names (1979–1981), which followed a visit to India when he was struck by the vivacity of the mounds of raw pigment in markets and temples.

These strange objects have an unnerving quality. Rising up from the floor, or pushing out of the wall, they seem solid and ephemeral, ethereal even, at the same time. This ability to confound, to make the viewer question what they are seeing, marks the beginning of a special process of engagement that is quite unlike any other. The creation of meaning through this interaction with the viewer is critical to Kapoor’s practice.

The void works take the use of pigment and colour literally into another dimension, where the pigment contributes to the sense of disorientation created as the viewer tries to discern the boundaries of the work. Viewers find themselves drawn closer and closer in an attempt to understand the form, until it reveals itself to be a void and not a flat painted surface – a void that is impossible to define perceptually. This mesmeric quality creates the emotional impact that redefines the relationship between viewer and artwork. The gap between perception and knowledge is impossible to bridge – the viewer teeters on the edge of the brink. The title of one of the pigment void works in the exhibition, My Body Your Body (1993), makes the importance of the presence of the viewer explicit.

The reference to the body continues in When I am Pregnant (1992), where the wall swells out into an ovoid protuberance – white on white makes the reading of the work only possible from certain angles. Kapoor was inspired to make this work by a visit to Uluru, a place where the spiritual impact of the landscape is particularly strong. The ability of this landscape to evoke powerful emotions is analogous to the way the artist’s sculptures operate.

The body takes on a new significance in the mirror works, where the reflection of the viewer becomes an integral part of the work. The highly polished reflective surfaces merge into the surroundings, whether architecture internally or landscape externally, calling into question where the work begins and ends. Objects become non-objects, boundaries dissolve and viewers become participants.

In the 2000s, Kapoor began to make work on a much larger scale. Lurking within the gallery, Memory (2008) – the large Cor-Ten steel work with its repellent rusted surface appears at first sight to contrast with the obvious seduction of the artist’s previous work. A view into the work through the gallery wall reveals the void – the internal dimensions remain unknown. Moving through the galleries, visitors see the work from multiple viewpoints but the game of trying to piece together the different perspectives can only take place in the imagination.

Kapoor creates series of works, finding the reinterpretation of older works and use of repetition as meditative. He sees the process of working in this way as an evolution of different languages, noting ‘there’s the pigment language, the void language, the mirror language, the wax language’. (1)

In recent years, he has become interested in creating works by machine, where the outcome cannot be pre-determined. The machines that produce the latest concrete works in the studio may be guided by the artist’s computerised drawings but the end result of the whorls of concrete is random. In My Red Homeland (2003), it is the moving arm rather than the hand of the artist that creates the sculpture within the gallery space, moving slowly though the viscous wax which rises and falls in its wake. The strong evocative colour and the wax recall the blurring of the boundaries between painting and sculpture in the early pigment works.

Audiences sometimes find modern sculpture, especially abstract and minimal sculpture, difficult to understand. The way in which sculpture can dominate space can be challenging and even threatening. Minimal art has a history of evoking strong negative responses. Kapoor, however, creates the possibility of an emotional or spiritual encounter. Quite how this happens is difficult to put into words – powerful works of art need to be experienced. Reactions like awe and wonder bring the work into the realm of the sublime. It is testament to Kapoor’s ability to create this engagement that he has become one of the most widely respected and celebrated artists, who has taken his work well beyond the world of art to attract crowds wherever it is shown. He is understandably wary of the popular, yet as he puts it: ‘It’s a short trip from Disneyland to something truly mysterious’ (2). Whether large-scale or more intimate, the mystery in Kapoor’s work cannot fail to elicit an often profound reaction in the viewer. This reaction is where the meaning of the work is created.

Anish Kapoor and MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor at the artist's studio in London
Anish Kapoor and MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor at the artist’s studio in London

- Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, exhibition curator and Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

(1) Nicholas Baume, Anish Kapoor, ‘Mythologies in the Making’, Past Present Future, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MIT Press, Cambridge/London, 2008, p.39.
(2) Nicholas Baume, Anish Kapoor, ‘Mythologies in the Making’, Past Present Future, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MIT Press, Cambridge/London, 2008, p.39.

Anish Kapoor’s public lecture at the MCA

Anish Kapoor delivers the 2012 Ann Lewis AO Contemporary Visual Arts International Address at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Focusing on his major public artworks and his interaction with private philanthropy, Kapoor speaks ahead of the opening of his major Sydney exhibition at the MCA.

Installing the exhibition

Tony Mighell, MCA Exhibition Services Manager together with Nick Reichinger from SDA Consulting Engineers discuss the logistical and engineering challenges and feats behind installing the exhibition Anish Kapoor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Navigating new territory for the museum with large-scale works which appear to defy gravity and physics, their talk explores the processes undertaken from concept to opening day for key artworks like Memory (2008), My Red Homeland (2003) and Non Object Plane (2010)

Key statistics from Anish Kapoor exhibition installation

Experiencing the exhibition

Dr. Kevin R. Brooks speaks to Dr Keir Winesmith about the mechanisms that allow us to experience the strange inversions and distortions of Anish Kapoor’s mirror works.

Dr Brooks is Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Human Science, Macquarie University, specialising in the research of Visual Perception and Psychophysics.

Dr Winesmith is Manager, Digital Media at the MCA.

Download the ePublication

The iPad application MCA Publications which contains every Museum of Contemporary publication, including the Anish Kapoor ePublication previewed here, is now available on the iTunes App Store. The Anish Kapoor ePublication is available for free for the duration of the exhibition which runs until the 1st of April.