Anish Kapoor

Bombay India 1954, lives and works in London

stainless steel
218,5 x 464 x 89 cm

Anish Kapoor regards the work of art as a medium that activates the viewer’s perception and thereby evokes sensory and other types of experiences. ‘I’ve got nothing particular to say, I don’t have any message to give anyone,’ Kapoor said in an interview with Homi K. Bhabha in 1998. ‘But it is my role to bring to expression, let’s say, to define means that allow phenomenological and other perceptions, which one might use, one might work with, and then move towards a poetic existence.’

The very intensity of such perceptions can be physically experienced by visitors to De Pont in two installations, located in adjacent ‘wool-storage’ rooms. In the first of these – which is empty for the rest – a flat round shape appears on the floor. From a certain distance, this evokes the association of a black mat, but on coming closer we realize that what seemed to be on the floor is actually in the floor, a dark cavity whose depth is unfathomable. The title: Descent into Limbo. That air of uncertainty also pervades the neighboring space. In the absolute darkness, the room seems to be empty; but as the eye adapts to that darkness, an enormous orb looms forth.

Kapoor creates situations which cause us briefly to doubt our own visual perceptions. Obvious patterns of observation are disrupted, and the ensuing ‘void’ creates room for new experiences. ‘The Void’ is a key notion in Kapoor’s mode of thought. Paradoxically enough, that void constitutes, both literally and figuratively, the content of the sizeable sculpture Untitled from 1994-1995. On one side of a roughly hewn block of Kilkenny limestone, an oval hollowing has been made and polished to a high, dark gloss. This reduces its material definition and causes the eye to be drawn into the black cavity.


Kapoor himself says that he has always been fascinated with a certain type of fear, a dizzying sensation, of falling or being pulled inward. It is this feeling, and a sense of disorientation, that also lies at the heart of his new work Vertigo. Now, however, the void that threatens to swallow us is not situated within the limits of the artwork, but in the space in front of it. Due to the dimensions of the slightly concave, shiny surface, the viewer is entirely surrounded by a space which has lost its stability. One’s own image is reflected repeatedly, larger than life, but around it the surroundings tilt and walls swirl as other, more distant visitors in the space are reflected upside down. With lessons from physics class still in mind, these visual phenomena can be explained rationally, by way of focal distances of concave and convex surfaces, yet that hardly lessens the impact of this hallucinatory experience.

With this work Kapoor activates not only the eye, but the body as well. Only by moving about and taking on an active relationship with the work is it possible to experience it fully. The succession of situations gives the work a filmic character. Kapoor may be referring to this with the title Vertigo, which is the same as that given to Alfred Hitchcock’s famous thriller from 1958. Here the main character’s dizziness is portrayed in movements of the camera.

The experiences conjured forth by the works of Kapoor go beyond the purely sensory; they verge on the transfixing experience of beauty that can be described as the sublime. With his reflecting sculptures of stainless steel, Kapoor wishes to give new meaning to this idea as well. In an interview with Heidi Reitmaier, in July 2007, he states ‘(...) that the traditional sublime is the matte surface, deep and absorbing, and that the shiny might be a modern sublime, which is fully reflective, absolutely present, and returns the gaze. This feels like a new way to think about the non-objective object.’