Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor was born to a Hindu father and a Jewish mother in Mumbai in 1954. He attended The Doon School, an all-boys boarding school in Dehradun, and came to London in the early 1970s to study at Hornsey College of Art and then Chelsea School of Art. Prominent among his contemporaries for the spiritual and mythological resonances of his sculpture, Kapoor is one of a generation of British-based sculptors who became internationally established during the 1980s.

After graduating in 1979, Kapoor went to teach at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, and then became Artist in Residence at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in 1982. Through the 1980s Kapoor established his reputation with a series of geometric, biomorphic sculptures. Mostly in natural materials – granite, limestone, slate, marble – his early works were frequently simple, curved forms impregnated with vividly-coloured, powdered pigment employed to permeate and define each shape. Many of Kapoor’s sculptures seem to recede into the distance, disappear into the ground or distort the space around them. His later works are made of solid, quarried stone carved with cavities in a fashion which seeks to play with the dualities of earth v sky; visible v invisible; male v female; conscious v unconscious. ‘In the end, I’m talking about myself and thinking about making nothing, which I see as a void. But then that’s something, even though it really is nothing.’

Kapoor represented Britain in the Venice Biennale in 1990 where he was awarded the Premio Duemila Prize. He received the Turner Prize in 1991. During the 1990s Kapoor began to work more extensively with negative space – boring holes in the flanks of standing stones; removing perfectly circular spaces from gallery floors. He also began working in highly polished, stainless steel, creating large, curved, mirror-surfaced pieces which reflect and distort both surroundings and viewer. Since the turn of the century Kapoor’s sculptures have evolved into yet more ambitious manipulations of form and space. He has produced a number of very large works, including Taratantara at the Baltic Flour Mills in Gateshead and Marsyas in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The use of red wax – evocative of flesh, blood, sincerity and transfiguration – is also part of this repertoire. Svayambh – a large block of red wax moving on rails through gallery space – was first shown at Nantes Musée des Beaux-Arts in 2007. The piece was shown again in 2009 in London, when Kapoor was the first living artist in the history of the Royal Academy to be given a solo exhibition. As well as surveying his career, this show included new works, not least Shooting into the Corner – in which a mechanical cannon repeatedly fired large pellets of wax into the corner of the gallery wall.

In 2010 Kapoor had his first major exhibition in India – at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and the Mehboob Studios in Mumbai. In 2012 he was commissioned to build the ArcelorMittal Orbit – a permanent artwork for London’s Olympic Park and was awarded the Padma Bhushan (India’s third-highest civilian award) by the Indian government. In 2013 he received a knighthood for his services to the visual arts and in 2014 was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Oxford. He lives and works in London.

Anish Kapoor ECHO 1