Friday, June 11, 2010

Why I find Anish Kapoor's new sculpture unsettling

Bigger is better in the art world - as Anish Kapoor's vast artwork proves - but Florence Waters worries where this trend will lead.

the giant Temenos installation by Anish Kapoor
Britain's biggest sculpture, the giant Temenos installation by Anish Kapoor
s it a coincidence? The images that Anish Kapoor’s sculpture overwhelmingly conjure up - stretched tights, the elegant curve of a trumpet base, a vortex – are symbolic of growth.
"This is without doubt the biggest art project in the world, in terms of ambition and scale - everything. It's massive," the artist himself has said of the project. Kapoor’s retrospective at the Royal Academy last year also, suitably, pulled the biggest crowds the gallery have known for a living artist, attracting 280,000 visitors.
 In our current culture, everything leans towards getting bigger - and not just in Dubai. The art world too is eating up space and money; the Tate Modern has finalised plans to expand greedily onto Southbank, the largest Guggenheim Museum in the world is underway in Abu Dabi, and this year Giacometti’s ‘Walking Man I’ sold for £65 million, the most enormous sum of cash ever paid for an artwork.
In the 19th century every major city square was dominated by public sculpture, but only recently has it become a popular art form again, particularly notable is the success of Antony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth last summer, when he invited the public to take to the platform and become the sculpture.
We may be experiencing something of a public sculpture revival, but this revival has little to do with its tradition as memorial.
It is above all about creating a common space, a spectacle, and about inspiring awe, which is easily achieved when we're made to feel small next to great big things. It is a nice coincidence that the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge were completed during the Great Depression.
But all this quick growth feels unsettled. In April, Kapoor’s 120 metre tower, called Arcellow Mittal Orbit, currently under construction on the Olympics site, seemed vast but it will soon be outgrown by its younger brother. We all know that inflation leads us down a treacherous path…

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