The Third Dimension

© Anish Kapoor. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2023.


Anish Kapoor (1954 – )


3: 61 X 61 X 61/76 X
Accession number


Anish Kapoor’s sculptures may be hewn from blocks of stone or made of polished steel, yet he can make shallow depressions look like bottomless pits, and holes look like solid surfaces. In 1992, when he exhibited Descent into Limbo (1992)[1]at Documenta in Kassel, audiences were confronted by a deep black hole that looked like a circle of carpet. The power of Kapoor’s sculptures lies in our uncer¬tainty as to the boundaries between air and mat¬ter, solid and void, tapping into a primal fear of the unknown.

Kapoor’s use of pigment in his early sculptures distorts the contours of the shapes he is creating. From deep crimson to cobalt blue, his intense and velvety colours appear to suck up the light around them. Kapoor first began using pow¬dered pigment in his sculptures in 1979, a clear reference to the ritual performances of the Holi Festival in his native India. The earliest exam¬ples consisted of formal groupings of chalk and colour. By the time he made The Chant of Blue, in 1983, Kapoor was layering the pigment onto polystyrene or fibreglass shapes that looked like strange mineral or plant forms. They were oth¬erworldly, like meteorites or specimens brought back from some distant world, and so alien that they seemed symbolic of a great mystery. Kapoor has said that artists don’t make objects, they make mythologies, and that when we look at a work of art we are seeing the mythological context in which the artist is working.[2] Kapoor’s context includes great Minimalist sculptors such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre, whom he discovered while studying at Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea School of Art in the 1970s. What had excited him, and what endures in his sculp¬tures, is the Minimalist concept that an object has a language of its own, unconstrained by the history of the maker or the viewer’s interpreta¬tion. The result is a form that appears to contain the secrets of the universe.


[1]. Collection of Du Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg.
[2]. Kapoor in interview with John Tusa for BBC Radio 3. accessed February 2009.

Published in Passports British Council Collection, British Council, London 2009