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Artist Profile3
Peeping into a world-renowned sculptor’s unconventional universe
India-born and internationally celebrated Anish Kapoor, who has lived in London since the early 70’s, has been honored with the coveted Padma Bhushan award for his stupendous achievements by the Government of India. In the last two and a half decades, he has established himself as an art practitioner with a unique persona, character and style. In particular, his usage of unusual methods and unconventional materials (like the brightly colored pigments he began using after a visit in the late 1970’s to India), juxtaposed with a very peculiar non-Western visual idiom, have helped him attain global fame, attention and status.

Considered one of the most talented contemporary sculptors globally, his amazing oeuvre includes some truly imposing works, such as the vast and trumpet-like Marsyas that once filled the Tate's Turbine Hall, a giant reflecting, pod like sculptural work in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and a string of masterpieces showcased at the Royal Academy, London. The prestigious venue hosted his select early pigment sculptures, beguiling mirror-polished steel sculptures and captivating cement sculptures apart from his monumental piece of artistry ‘Svayambh’, its title drawn from a Sanskrit term (meaning ‘self-generated’). Emblematic of the artist’s interest in sculptures, which actively participate in process of their own creation, it moved slowly through the galleries across the whole breadth of Burlington House.

A decade or so older than most of the Young British Artists, who happened to take the art world by storm in the early 1990’s, his sensibility remains markedly different owing to an cross-cultural upbringing. The fact that he did not begin life in a Western culture has probably added a curious hybrid dimension to many of his projects. Born in the city of Mumbai in 1954, he left India two decades later - originally to become an engineer like his father. He only took up art seriously after joining the Hornsey College of Art (1973-77) followed by graduation at Chelsea School of Art (1977-78). For a year or so, he taught at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, and was chosen as Artist in Residence at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in 1982.

His first solo was hosted at Patrice Alexandre, Paris. Since then his exhibitions have been held at several prestigious venues across the world like Manchester Art Gallery (2011); Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev; Guggenheim, Bilbao; Solomon R. Guggenheim Gallery, New York (2010); Royal Academy of Arts, London; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; MAK Exhibition Hall, Vienna, Austria (2009); Kukje Gallery, Seoul; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2008); Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany; Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo (2007); Centre for Contemporary Art, Malaga, Spain; Lisson Gallery, London (2009, 2006, 2000); Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2004); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2003); Tate Modern, London (2002); and Taidehalli, Helsinki (2001); among others.

In 1990, he received the Turner Prize and a year later, he was chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, where he bagged the Premio Duemila prize for the best exhibit. He was also awarded Honorary Doctorate at the London Institute (1997) and an Honorary Fellowship at Royal Institute of British Architecture in 2001. His work has been featured in many international group shows and events, including Documenta IX, Kassel; Serpentine Gallery in London; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Jeu de Paume and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The celebrated artist undertook the Unilever Series of commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2003. The gallery had mentioned of him as an unusual practitioner with an ability to produce sculptural forms, which permeate both physical and psychological space.

Indeed, his versatility and inventiveness encompasses a wide range of works from site-specific interventions on floor or wall and powdered pigment sculptures, to gigantic indoor and outdoor installations. In essence, Anish Kapoor has explored what he perceives as deep-rooted and diverse metaphysical polarities: being and non-being, presence and absence, and the solid and the intangible. His sculptures often emphasize on perception and purity, enacted in three-dimensional space. They tend to carve, color and complicate space in many different ways, imparting interactive aspects and pushing that purity back & forth between votive and technological, East and West.

The internationally celebrated and respected artist displayed his milestone works for the first time in India rather late – only last year - as part of the major ‘twin’ exhibition series in Delhi and Mumbai. Each show complemented the other to give a holistic picture of the diversity and energy that marks his oeuvre. The Telegraph writer Florence Waters pointed out that ‘one of the most influential sculptors of his generation’ might owe much of his inspiration to Indian culture and color.” Echoing the view, the artist revealed that his work drew from his memories of India. Incidentally, he was quite critical of the country’s contemporary visual culture, and the manner in which it is perceived internationally. According to him, post-Independence, the museums in India were trying to form an idea of what an inherent visual context might be, but it remained ‘full of clichés – the ones we’ve bought into’.

His latest commission to design the spectacular new public attraction for London 2012 Olympic Park, entitled ‘The ArcelorMittal Orbit’, has also received spectacular media attention. The breathtaking piece of public art – set to be the tallest in the UK - will tower over the Olympic Park. Expected to be one of the popular attractions in the city on eve of the mega sporting event, the 114m tall sculpture, is an amazing piece of architecture. It’s difficult to keep Anish Kapoor away from spotlight, and rightly so…