anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011
anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011
may 10, 2011

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011  image © designboom



monumenta 2011 ‘leviathan’ by anish kapoor grand palais, paris may 11 to june 23rd, 2011




each year the french ministry of culture and communication invites a leading artist to create a work that responds to the exceptional architectural space of the grand palais in paris. the sheer monumental scale of the building provided the inspiration for a big idea: monumenta. this year, indian-born, british-based artist anish kapoor created a temporary, site-specific installation inside the nave of the glass-domed hall. the space was originally unveiled at the 1900 universal exhibition. for its fourth edition, after guest artists anselm kiefer, richard serra and christian boltanski, it has been the turn of anish kapoor to meet the  challenge with a brand new work for the 13,500 m2 space.

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011monumenta 2011image © designboom




‘it has been a slow process. it seems to me that I’ve been working on it since almost 20 years. now it is here. we did it.’  says anish kapoor in an interview with designboom. ‘the sculpture is a total immersion in an unexplored physical and mental  dimension. once you are inside,  in the giant 4-armed balloon, the involuted form  reminds you of an organic outer space and inner self at  the same time — but when you travel outside of it (once you are back in the space of the grand palais),  I hope the viewer has another encounter with the piece and with the luminosity thrown down by the glass roof.’

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 image © designboom




visitors to the grand palais will first use a revolving door to enter inside ‘the belly of the beast’.  a four-chamber balloon, bathed in red light, which the artist says he hopes has a cathedral-like quality. ‘it is a building of extraordinary scale. the difficulty of the space is its scale – when you are inside and enclosed, it’s almost bigger  than being outside! somehow one has to deal with this volume, which is both horizontal and vertical. the verticality is the problem,  and the light is what makes the verticality a challenge.’ anish kapoor

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 image © designboom




once you enter the second part of the exhibition, the exterior of the sculpture appears to bear no relation to the interior. they co-exist simultaneously. ‘that’s what the work is about,’ says anish kapoor. ‘I think there is no such thing as an innocent viewer. all viewing, all looking comes with complications, comes with previous histories,  a more or less real past. abstract art and sculpture in particular, has to deal with this idea that the viewer comes with his body, and  of course memory. memory and body come together in the act of looking. I’m really interested in what happens to meaning in that process:  as memory and body walk through, take the passage through any given work, something happens, something changes.’ anish kapoor

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 image © designboom




anish kapoor is a perfectionist and had to overcome lots of ‘technical’ problems. to cope with the light which floods through the palais’ glass ceilings he chose a very dark membrane.  the mock-ups were not at all satisfying – the artist had previously experienced some problems of inflating the smaller size models accurately.  he did not know how this would look like on a giant scale until the work was erected. his crew took a week to install the work. ‘there are no wrinkles!‘ he told us excited. anish kapoor’s artwork celebrates neither permanence nor eternity, but instead the transitive, fugitive nature of instants. ‘it is a single object, a single shape, a single colour. the dense red reminds us of the colours we see in our eyes at night – unstable and monochrome – red creates much more sombre shadows, psychologically and physically, than black or blue.’

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 image © designboom




‘the grand palais is one of those remarkable spaces in the world, a vast volume full of light, and has its own beauty. to make a work in it,  one has to deal with all of that, especially the light. I want the viewer to have a moment of shock, aesthetically but also physically, so that when you enter the nave you raise your eyes and say: ‘wow! could it be like that!’’each artwork is above all an event’.

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 people inside the the red-colored, globulous ‘balloon’ image © designboom anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 the vaulted greenhouse-like roof and looping art nouveau balconies of the the grand palais and kapoor’s sculpture image © designboom

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 image © designboom

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 the play with such an overwhelming scale in a cathedral-like context image © designboom

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 the purple rubber biest image © designboom anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 anish kapoor image © designboom

anish kapoor: leviathan for monumenta 2011 anish kapoor portrait © designboom


video from the press conference, anish kapoor speaks to international team of invited guests. (due to the very low light conditions inside the sculpture, and the fact that we were not allowed to use additional light equipment, the video is slightly blurred. sorry for that.) kapoor stated that the work’s title ‘leviathan’, was related to the 17th century philosopher thomas hobbes’s book, published in 1651 (entitled after the biblical sea monster leviathan), but at the same time he advised against over-literal interpretations.


with this exhibition, he calls for museums to close for a day in protest at detention of artist ai weiwei in china. ‘as a colleague – I don’t know him personally – I feel that as artists we have a communal voice and it’s important that we stick together, that we have a sense of solidarity with each other,’ anish kapoor said. ‘it would be nice to see the art world come together a little more. perhaps all museums and galleries should be closed for a day across the world. I think some such campaign needs to form itself.’

the event is an initiative of the french ministry of culture and communication (direction générale de la création artistique) and is co-produced by the centre national des arts plastiques (cnap), the grand palais and the réunion des musées nationaux. commissioner: jean de loisy. the cost of this exhibition is estimated around euro 3m.

  • At first look everything seems like a belly of the beast !! But when we’re going deeper and deeper,it gets mysterious…designed in a artistically humble!

    Ar. Sarita Rahman
  • Hi Ashish .. i want some creativity of your in our India.. i m not asking for exhibition.. i want a real things made by you.

    vinit pratap singh
  • Like to be a small person in mothers womb??

    Mettte U
  • Nice Mood created through the color. Very impressive and Wonderful Architecture.
    Thanks to show me.

    Raju Mishra
  • He is the best

  • I’ll be going to see it. Similarities to a piece I did in 2008 –

  • love it.

  • Fucking Aye!

  • This is art! the effect is irrational and space inside is unbelivable

  • Amazing! free weiwei


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