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Anish Kapoor’s art is an empty pleasure

September 14, 2009

Anish Kapoor’s art is an empty pleasure

His elegant, technically perfect creations can make us gasp with wonder, but leave nothing to the imagination

Anish Kapoor's artwork Ishi's Light

Spectacular yet sterile … Ishi’s Light by Anish Kapoor. Photograph: Lisson Gallery

There’s no doubt that Anish Kapoor‘s imminent show at the Royal Academy will be a massive popular success, but I can’t help thinking that art like his flourishes only in a historically undernourished age: having no memory of great art to compare it with, we fall for its saturated colours and easy sublimity, and can’t find our bearings in its illusory voids.


But at Tate Modern, where his sculpture Ishi’s Light sits among abstract art by the giants of modernism, he doesn’t get such an easy ride. Ishi’s Light is an outsized egg that a spectator can step inside (or could if there wasn’t a security rope in front of it). It’s a bit like a teleportation pod from a science fiction film. Outside it is pale. Inside it is deep red and shiny, a shimmering pool of colour your mind can sink into. Kapoor is a brilliant user of colour; he’s also an artful contriver of spectacular effects.


But, compare his work with almost any of the other artists in nearby galleries and you can see what is wrong with it: Kapoor leaves nothing to the imagination. Take a look at Ishi’s Light and then look at Matisse’s Snail nearby. Kapoor’s art does all the work that truly great art makes us do in our minds. It’s so neat, elegant and efficient: every piece by him delivers a guaranteed gasp of wonder, as reliably as the latest e-book design or Google map innovation. It’s like a machine for producing aesthetic excitement.

Read more at The Guardian: Anish Kapoor’s art is an empty pleasure
2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2010 6:17 am


    Looking forward to your examination of Kapoor’s 2012 Olympic tower. Here he does (it seems to me) leave something to the imagination.

    • islandlass permalink*
      April 1, 2010 5:05 pm

      Re the Tower, am inclined to agree.

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