Bonhams to Auction Anish Kapoor's Mountain at its Contemporary Arab Art Sale in Dubai

Anish Kapoor (British, b. 1954), Mountain, aluminium, constructed from 120 water-jet cut 2 cm thick aluminium layers mounted on an internal structure 255 cm. high, 500 cm. wide, 281 cm. deep. Estimate: $1,800,000 - 2,600,000
LONDON.- 'Mountain' by Turner Prize winning Anish Kapoor is to be sold at Bonhams next sale of modern contemporary Arab, Iranian, Indian and Pakistani art in Dubai on 24 November.
Constructed from 120 water-jet cut 2 cm thick aluminium layers mounted on an internal structure, this is a rare opportunity to own a piece by one of the most influential sculptors of his generation.
Viewed from the outside, Anish Kapoor’s Mountain rises in front of us like a solid, invincible structure. Executed with formidable precision, its 120 aluminium layers lock together and, at the same time, convey the rugged energy of a mountain surging out of the elemental rock. It possesses an imposing air of grandeur, furrowed and restless yet able to elicit a profound sense of awe in the onlooker. We find ourselves seduced by the challenge of scaling its heights, in order to feel an even greater exultation and release when reaching the top.
Kapoor, however, is not content with engendering a straightforward feeling of delight. His work is complex, and its multi-layered meanings become clear once we succeed in peering over the apex of Mountain. For there, instead of a creating a peak or even a reassuringly flat ledge, he leads our eyes down into a void. Suddenly, without any warning, we find ourselves confronted by absence rather than presence. The mountain’s rim is disconcertingly thin, and anyone brave enough to stand there would be in danger of losing balance.
Looking into the depths of this hollow structure, we feel giddily caught up in the striations running along its sides. They generate a powerful linear rhythm, leading us down towards the darkest depths of this mesmeric, unforgettable sculpture. We grow conscious of the seismic forces which created our world so many centuries ago, especially at the points where Kapoor brings one curve of the mountain’s interior into tactile contact with another. He makes us feel this momentous encounter within our own bodies. We are caught up in its visceral drama. And, most arrestingly of all, Kapoor sucks us deep into the whirling forces at work here. It has the potency of a vortex. Only the most intrepid explorer would venture down into its ominous darkness.
The absolute assurance of Kapoor’s tour de force marks a high point in his career, and proves that he is enjoying a formidable maturity.
Although often linked with Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon and others who have done so much to revitalise contemporary British sculpture, he stands alone. The first nineteen years of his life were spent in India, as the son of a Hindu father and a mother whose family had emigrated from Baghdad. Living for most of the time in a small town outside Delhi, he did not grow up with any special devotion to art. But the Indian insistence on painting and sculpture’s relationship with religion, most spectacularly in the great temples which he visited as a child, had a profound influence on his subsequent work.
Not that Kapoor was ignorant of western alternatives. He already had a wide knowledge of the European tradition before coming to England in 1973, and studying at the Hornsey and Chelsea schools of art. Understandably, though, this interest was quickened most keenly by western artists with a strong spiritual dimension in their work: Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Yves Klein and above all Joseph Beuys, whose emphasis on the artist as a shaman with redemptive powers had a special significance for the young Kapoor.
Only in 1979, during a return visit to India, did he appreciate how his native inheritance could best be harnessed to the work he was producing in London. The luminous powder colours sold outside the temples, for use in religious rituals, came as a revelation to him. So did the devotional carvings within the shrines, where the god Shiva seemed capable of fusing intense physicality with an aura of remoteness.
The same union of opposites soon informed the sculpture Kapoor made back in England. He began applying powder colours to forms reminiscent of fruit, breasts and mountains. Brilliant yellows, blues and reds gave his work an immediate sensuous appeal. But these shimmering, seductive presences also had an other-worldly quality. Even as it enhanced their ripe and often erotic allure, the soft powder had a disembodying effect. The work seemed on the point of melting, and Kapoor often placed a number of pieces in groups or long lines to reinforce the idea of an infinite series.
At once enticing and enigmatic, his sculpture could not easily be related to the work of his contemporaries in the 1980s. While Tony Cragg incorporated ready-made objects, scavenged from the scrap-heap of late twentieth-century urban society, Kapoor pointed towards an older and more meditative way of life. His work often looked as if it had been laid out for a ceremonial purpose, nowhere more impressively than in a vast congregation of red sandstone boulders called Void Field. They formed the centrepiece of the superb exhibition he staged as Britain’s official representative at the 1990 Venice Biennale. Filling the room with their rough-hewn bulk, they looked like a cluster of rocks occupying a primordial religious site. But all this solidity was undermined by the small circular marks punctuating the top of each block. Close scrutiny revealed that they were holes, leading the eye down to an immense and disturbing emptiness deep inside. The weight and mass of the sandstone were subverted by this inky vacuum. Plain statement gave way to conundrum, and material certainty was replaced by a haunting awareness of the unknown.
In the early 1990s, after Kapoor won the Turner Prize at the age of 37, he began working on even grander projects. Unafraid of thinking on a monumental scale, he collaborated with the architect David Connor on a tower for the 1992 Expo in Seville. Visitors approached the entrance up a 45 metre-long ramp curving round the lower half of the structure. They then found themselves standing in an oval room, with polished plaster walls lit only by a hole in the roof. The circle of light it cast on the floor contrasted very dramatically with a real hole nearby. And the bulbous cavity beneath the hole, occupying an alarming amount of space, was painted blue because, as Kapoor explained, “blue makes a much better black than black does.” Exploring the entire structure amounted to an eerie experience. Once entered, the lofty building’s seemingly impregnable solidity gave way to an ethereal alternative, offering stillness and unfathomable mystery within.
Over the last decade, Kapoor’s swiftly expanding international reputation has provided him with opportunities to produce even more ambitious and visionary work. Take Taratantara, the spectacular temporary installation he made for the Baltic building at Gateshead in 1999. At that stage, the gigantic former Flour Mills had been completely emptied. It was a shell, waiting to be transformed into an ‘art factory’, and Baltic’s director Sune Nordgren asked Kapoor to work there. Taratantara’s jubilant title hinted at the experience to come. A blazing red PVC membrane was stretched over the open end wall. But it curved inwards as well, terminating in a throat. The aperture tempted you into the building. And there Kapoor delivered a flamboyant visual blow, comparable in impact with the sound Joshua made when he brought down the walls of Jericho. Sprouting into the form of a double trumpet, Taratantara stretched right across the 170-foot void. The redness, combined with the swollen size, stunned viewers walking underneath. Yet its taut skin showed how rigorous Kapoor can be, giving his vaulting apparition a remarkable amount of tensile strength.
Then, in October 2002, he went even further at Tate Modern. Confronted by the overwhelming vastness of its Turbine Hall, few artists could respond with the audacity and verve he commanded. Many visitors were astounded by the impact of the sculpture he installed there. For Kapoor invited them to encounter three colossal, enveloping cavities, stretching out like the mouths of monumental trumpets from an organic form that arched its way through the immense space at his disposal. By calling the sculpture Marsyas, he stirred mythological memories of the bloody flaying which Apollo inflicted on a hapless satyr’s body. But Kapoor’s Marsyas was far less violent and unnerving than Titian’s late painting of the same theme. It provoked above all a sense of awe in onlookers, who found themselves wondering at the combination of boldness and enigma that gave the work its fascination.
Kapoor’s ability to involve viewers of all ages in his art ensures the lasting success of the titanic piece made for Chicago’s new park. Here, on a site also enlivened with new buildings by Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano, he has produced a stainless steel gate sculpture containing a passage through to a vast reflective chamber within. It proves, once again, that Kapoor has a boundless, supple and open-minded capacity to extend himself in refreshing new directions. Far from settling for a predictable identity, he is prepared to take risks and ambush us with sculptural surprises.
Bonhams would like to thank Richard Cork for his invaluable assistance in cataloguing this lot.
Source - Art Daily
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