Anish Kapoor: Flashback

 Anish Kapoor, untitled, detail.White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers Anish Kapoor, 1982Anish Kapoor, TurningAnish Kapoor, Her Blood

Anish Kapoor was born in Bombay in 1954 to an Indian father and an Iraqi Jewish mother. He moved to London in 1973 to study art and has lived and worked there ever since. Kapoor studied at Hornsey College of Art, then at Chelsea School of Art and Design. The artist was quickly recognised for the quality of his work and was selected to show at the Royal Academy and the Serpentine Gallery whilst still a student.

In 1979 Kapoor made an important trip back to India where he rediscovered Indian culture. Kapoor became interested in the significance of duality in the Indian way of life, the idea of oppositions central to much of the culture’s symbolism and philosophy. He was also struck by the country’s colourful palette, after seeing the strong primary colours of the piles of pigment sold at the markets, and on returning to London began using raw pigment as a material.

In 1981 Kapoor's work was selected to show at two significant London exhibitions, Objects and Sculpture, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, and British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century: Part Two, Symbol and Imagination,1951-80 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Involvement in these exhibitions led Kapoor to be cited within the ‘New British Sculpture’ movement, artists included notable for their wide-ranging techniques and use of materials.

Later in the 1980s Kapoor’s work shifted from pigmented objects to the considered construction of ‘void spaces’, and in 1990 Kapoor was chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale showing the work Void Field (1989). As a result the artist was awarded the much coveted ‘Premio Duemila’ prize, and following the show was nominated for the Turner Prize, which he won in 1991.

The late 1990s and early 21st century saw Kapoor begin to work with both mirrored surfaces and wax as materials, his shiny surfaces in particular becoming a cental motif in his work. Cloud Gate (2004), a 110 ton stainless-steel structure, is the most famous of his reflective pieces and following its success Kapoor received many commissions for public artworks.

Despite Kapoor’s international success the artist had, until recently, never had an exhibition of his work in India. In 2010 this was addressed with a collaboration between the British Council and the Government of India to produce a show at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi and the Mehboob Film Studios in Mumbai. In the UK Kapoor has continued to build on his reputation with major shows at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens and the Royal Academy. The 2009 Royal Academy show attracted 275,000 visitors and is currently the most successful show ever by an artist living in London.

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