Stuart George

Is it art? Anish Kapoor at The Royal Academy of Arts

In Art and artists on December 7, 2009 at 5:14 pm

On Sunday evening (6 December), I visited the Anish Kapoor exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly.

As I wandered round the vaguely phallic or yonic big “works” by Kapoor, which often impress for their size alone, I kept thinking to myself “Is it art?”

The Non-Objects series of meticulously polished stainless steel, for example, were treated by most people as a chance to look at their distorted reflection, the Royal Academy’s gallery turned into a hall of mirrors.

Shooting into the Corner has a cannon firing shells of red wax every twenty minutes, the operation performed by a young RA (Royal Academy not Royal Artillery!) intern or volunteer (as I suppose he was). The result is a great big mess of red wax splattered over the usually immaculate walls and ceilings of the RA. The sheer bloody mess he has made in the building is rather amusing and daring. It is the finest use of cannons since the 1812 Overture!

Svayambh fills five galleries. A huge block of red wax (again) moves very slowly along a track through the five rooms, gradually leaving behind a great big mess of red wax (again).

Of course, the wax pieces can never be reproduced identically when exhibited in different places. It would not be entirely disingenuous of Kapoor to give each one a new name – they are all “unique” pieces.

Kapoor’s work is not “art” (or at least “fine art”) in the conventional sense of the word. It is not – to me anyway – “beautiful.” His work is more often representative of engineering rather than draughtsmanship. But it does stimulate the senses: The cannon of Shooting into the Corner made everybody jump and the ubiquitous red wax looks like blood and guts. It stimulates something primal within us and provokes strong responses – like this blog post! That surely is a defining characteristic of great art.

  1. I agree with you, Mr. George! I have personal experience in cleaning up wax, and I can attest to the lugubrious nature of the task. I guess I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to art. I like pieces that inspire. Beauty, to be sure, is in the eyes of the beholder!

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