Anish Kapoor (B.1954), Untitled. photo courtesy Sotheby's
granite; 152.4 by 152.4 by 15.3cm. Executed in 2003. Estimate 300,000—400,000 GBP. Lot Sold 361,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: Lisson Gallery, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2007
EXHIBITED: Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Instituti Dispendenti, Anish Kapoor, 2006
NOTE: "The void has many presences ... The idea of being somehow consumed by the object, or in the non-object, in the body. I have always been drawn to a notion of fear, towards a sensation of vertigo, of falling, of being pulled inwards. This is a notion of the sublime which reverses the picture of union with light. This is an inversion, a sort of turning inside-out. This is a vision of darkness."
The artist cited in: Germano Celant, Anish Kapoor, Milan 1998, p. xxxv
Anish Kapoor's stunning Untitled manifests all the pioneering ingenuity in material and spatial possibilities that characterise the very best output of this world-renowned sculptor. The terms of its meticulous and flawless execution; its commanding presence; and its extraordinary manipulation of visual-somatic experience mark it apart as sculpturally phenomenal. From the outset it summates concepts that are so central to Kapoor's seminal canon: the concurrent presence and absence of light, chromatic immediacy and infinity, and apparent solidity matched by an elusive intangibility. Composed of the extraordinarily durable and solid medium of granite, this sculpture hangs like a gravity-defying vertical stone meniscus despite its weight, thereby sooner evoking a feat of nature than a man-made creation. Invoking both the sheer monumentally of the vast sculptures of Richard Serra, and the overwhelming emotional charge of the late 'black paintings' of Mark Rotko, Untitled initiates a total bodily and sensory experience that is simultaneously intimate, cerebral, and spiritual.
The beautifully polished granite surface is simultaneously reflective by its shiny surface, and limitlessly opaque through the chromatic depths of its intense natural colour. The granite's smooth sheen and its meditative aura of fragility defy the weight and the rough-hewn edges of the rock from which it is born. Furthermore, the stone's ever-changing dark hues and the subtly sparkling crystals endemic to the granite emphasise dramatic dualities of light and dark and form and void: themes that have become synonymous with Kapoor's acclaimed contribution to the current artistic landscape. As the artist has explained, "One of the phenomena that I've worked with over many years is darkness. What interests me ... is the sense of the darkness that we carry within us, the darkness that's akin to one of the principal subjects of the sublime - terror. A work will only have that deep resonance that I try to indicate if there is the kind of darkness that I can generate...if the resonance that's in that stone is something that is resident in you already. That's to say that you are completing that circle, but perhaps without knowingly you're completing that circle. It's not a verbal connection, but a bodily one. That's why the sculpture occupies the same space as your body." (Anish Kapoor interviewed by John Tusa, BBC Radio 3, 6 July 2003).
Kapoor's work exhibits an almost spiritual devotion to purity of materials and he has constantly sought to establish his sculptures as objects which are able to exist and in and communicate through their own materiality. Unlike the ubiquitous colour saturation of his earlier pigment works, the artist's stone sculptures celebrate the history and vitality of the natural materials he selects and its transformation through polished surfaces and geometric shapes into sculpture. "There is a history in the stone," he explained, "and through this simple device of excavating the stone it's as if a whole narrative sequence is suddenly there" (Germano Celant, Anish Kapoor, Milan 1998, p. 27). He has also described how "at the end of the process... the stone becomes something else, becomes light, becomes a proposition, becomes a lens" (Ibid., p. 29). This concept of the lens is central to understanding Kapoor's output and the present work exemplifies the artist's aforementioned idea that cycle of an artwork is only completed by the beholder. The artist's intention has been, in the words of Marco Livingstone, "to create shapes which are timeless in nature. This is not an opportunistic attitude...his goal is not to bypass the material world but to transcend it." (Marco Livingstone, Exhibition Catalogue, Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Anish Kapoor: Feeling into Form, 1983, p. 27).
The astounding physical properties of Untitled also propose more conceptual questions concerning our perception and interpretation of space. In ways similar to Lucio Fontana, whose groundbreaking and illustrious project of Spatialism abandoned dependence on the picture plane to seek another dimension through and beyond the canvas, Kapoor has spoken of his search for the "infinite" and made the iconic assertion that "To make new art you have to make a new space" (the artist in: Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Anish Kapoor, 2008, p. 52). Furthermore, the dynamic conflict between interior and exterior is one of the artist's key philosophical interests: "I'm interested in the idea that form in a sense turns itself inside out, that the inside and the outside are equivalent to each other, that we don't just enclose. The form is continually in a warp, and continually turning itself inside out" (Anish Kapoor interviewed by John Tusa Op Cit). Using concrete material, Kapoor institutes the intangible and admits the possibility of the infinite. Simultaneously material and immaterial, Untitled provides a profound parallel to Jacques Lacan's declaration that "the illusion of space is different from the creation of emptiness" (Jacques Lacan in: Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book VII – The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960, New York 1986, p. 140). With this work Kapoor has created a sculpture of astonishing purity and beauty – centred on a void that is as enticing and mysterious as the infinity that lies in the darkness beyond Fontana's slashes: it is indeed a monument that touches the eternal.
Sotheby's. Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 15 Oct 10, London www.sothebys.com