The first-ever exhibition of Anish Kapoor in India opened at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi and the Mehboob Film Studios, Mumbai in November 2010. Each display focuses on a different strand of the artist’s practice and together forms one of the largest and most ambitious exhibitions of the artist’s work ever to be shown.
The exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, opened by Sonia Gandhi, spans the full breadth of his career, from early pigment pieces to recent polished steel works, including a huge outdoor sky mirror. Also included is a full survey of Kapoor's architectural models. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson NAC said:
‘…It is a real pleasure for me to be here with you this evening. Few artists of our time have so captured the imagination of the world as Anish Kapoor. An Anish Kapoor exhibition anywhere is always a major event. Last year, I am told, the Royal Academy in London made him the first living artist ever to hold a solo exhibition in all its galleries. A double exhibition in Delhi and Mumbai is therefore very, very special. It is even more special for another reason… many of us in India have read and heard about his creations and seen pictures of them. Now at last, after ten long years of persistent effort, we have a chance to see them for ourselves. It is an exciting moment. I thank all those who have made it possible.
It goes without saying that Anish Kapoor’s sculptures and installations have broken new ground. They have won acclaim for the inspired, even daring, manner in which architecture and sculpture, space and form, earth and sky, engineering and technology are brought together. Beyond the technical virtuosity however, is a singularity of his artistic vision. His forms convey intriguing dualities: the earthy and the ethereal; permanence and impermanence; stillness and movement; darkness and light; illusion and reality. His works are not just visually astonishing but they also stretch our perceptions. They evoke wonder; a sense of surprise; a realisation that things are not what they may seem. Looking at them, we are confronted simultaneously with the mystery of artistic creation and the mystery of being. They take us within and beyond ourselves into a world of reverie and reflection.
It is not the least of Anish Kapoor’s achievements that he has created an art that is both profound and accessible. It can be enjoyed by young and old alike. It draws in the viewer to participate in the work rather than just observing it passively. To quote his own words, ‘the work itself has a complete circle of meaning and counterpoint, and without your involvement as a viewer, there is no story’. I am told his Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago is the most visited artwork in a public space in the world. This is testimony, not just to the magnetism and interactive nature of his art, but also to his commitment to taking it beyond a verified art world to the public at large.
I am sure his exhibitions at Delhi and Mumbai will evoke an enthusiastic response. Viewers will engage with Anish Kapoor’s artist vision and will no doubt be challenged in some way by the experience. Indira Gandhi often emphasised that development must be about the whole individual addressing as much aesthetic and spiritual uplift as material needs. Art, and particularly public art, plays a vital role in this process. It improves tastes and sensibility. It helps open new windows in our mind, freeing it from prejudice and narrowness. It is therefore a matter of regret that our cities and public spaces have so little public art of any real distinction, and I hope we may one day see an Anish Kapoor installation in one of our cities, as well as others of true quality by some of our leading artists.
Anish Kapoor is not an artist who can be defined or indeed confined by boundaries of geography or nationality, for his is a universal vision. But more than one art critic has noticed the influence of India in his work. He himself has spoken of the impact that India’s philosophy, and the deep symbolism inherent in so many aspects of life here, have had on him. With this exhibition he makes a fittingly triumphant return to a country he left forty years ago, but one that continues to nourish his artistic imagination. ‘I am Indian and I am proud of it’, Anish Kapoor has declared. May I say that we too take pride in this son of India, acclaimed the world over as one of the great sculptors of our time who has brilliantly fused the timeless and the contemporary and dramatically extended the frontiers of art. I am delighted to inaugurate his exhibition.'
In Mumbai the exhibition takes place at the Mehboob Film Studios, a Bollywood film studio lot specially hired for the occasion. This exhibition focuses on recent polished steel pieces and mechanical works in red wax, including Shooting into the Corner (2008-09), a continually firing cannon that blasts canisters of red wax onto a wall. This piece and others were most recently seen in the record-breaking exhibition of Kapoor’s work at the Royal Academy, London, which attracted over 275,000 visitors in less than three months and became the most successful exhibition of a living artist ever held in London.
This exhibition has been organised by the British Council in partnership with the National Gallery of Modern Art, India, and the Lisson Gallery, with significant sponsorship from Louis Vuitton and the Tata Group.