Anish Kapoor: Memory
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With the inauguration of the Deutsche Guggenheim in 1997, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank launched a unique and ambitious program of contemporary art commissions that has enabled the Guggenheim to act as a catalyst for artistic production. Anish Kapoor: Memory is the fourteenth commission project to be completed since the program’s inception and is the Guggenheim’s first collaboration with Anish Kapoor, an artist celebrated for his expansive vision and profound aesthetics.
Memory (2008) is a site-specific work that was conceived to engage two different exhibition locations at the Guggenheim museums in Berlin and New York. Utilizing Cor-Ten steel for the first time, the sculpture represents a milestone in Kapoor’s career. Memory's thin steel skin, only eight millimeters thick, suggests a form that is ephemeral and unmonumental. The sculpture appears to defy gravity as it gently glances against the periphery of the gallery walls and ceiling. However, as a 24-ton volume, Memory is also raw, industrial, and foreboding. Positioned tightly within the gallery, Memory is never fully visible; instead the work fractures and divides the gallery into several distinct viewing areas. The division compels visitors to navigate the museum, searching for vantage points that offer only glimpses of the sculpture. This processional method of viewing Memory is an intrinsic aspect of the work. Visitors are asked to contemplate the ensuing fragmentation by attempting to piece together images retained in their minds, exerting effort in the act of seeing—a process Kapoor describes as creating a “mental sculpture.”
Memory’s rusting exterior creates a powdery surface, which relates this commission to Kapoor’s early pigment pieces from the 1980s. Rather than necessitating an additional coat of paint to smooth the interior curvature, the sculpture’s Cor-Ten tiles, perfectly manufactured to prevent light from seeping through, create the necessary conditions for darkness within. The work’s square aperture—wedged precisely into one of the gallery’s walls—allows a view into this boundless interior void. The endless darkness seems to contradict what visitors know about the work’s delimited exterior. This contradiction between the known and the perceived is one of Kapoor’s central interests. The window also defines a two-dimensional plane that can be read as a painting rather than an opening. Kapoor’s interest in this pictorial effect is best reflected in his statement “I am a painter working as a sculptor.”
Anish Kapoor was born in 1954 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. He has lived in London since the early 1970s and quickly rose to prominence in the 1980s. Best known for his explorations of “the void,” and for his experiments with color, scale, and materiality, he has redefined contemporary sculpture. Kapoor has exhibited extensively both in London and internationally; his solo shows have included venues such as Kunsthalle Basel, Tate Gallery and Hayward Gallery in London, Reina Sofia in Madrid, CAPC in Bordeaux, Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston and MAK Vienna. The Royal Academy is currently hosting "Anish Kapoor", a major solo exhibition that is scheduled to travel to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in March 2010. Kapoor represented Britain at the XLIV Venice Biennale in 1990 when he was awarded the Premio Duemila prize. He is the recipient of the prestigious Turner Prize, awarded in 1991. He has undertaken a number of major large-scale installations and commissions, including Taratantara (Baltic, Gateshead, 1999 and Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples), Marsyas (Tate Modern, London, 2002), Cloud Gate (Millennium Park, Chicago, 2004), Sky Mirror (Rockefeller Center, New York, 2006), Shooting into the Corner (MAK, Vienna, 2009) and Svayambh (Royal Academy, London, 2009).
The accompanying exhibition catalogue provides an in-depth analysis of Kapoor’s creative intellectual process, and offers glimpses into the development of Memory from the initial models to the final installation in Berlin. Multidisciplinary essays authored by Henri Lustiger-Thaler, Sandhini Poddar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Steven Holl with David van der Leer, and Christopher Hornzee-Jones inscribe Memory within a broad critical framework. The publication also features a comprehensive exhibition history and bibliography on Anish Kapoor.
Curated by Sandhini Poddar, Assistant Curator of Asian Art