Anish Kapoor to hold first major show in Turkey in September

Anish Kapoor (photo: mi)

Anish Kapoor, one of the world's most renowned contemporary sculptors, is headed to Turkey in September for an exhibition at İstanbul's Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM) in what will be the first major show here by the Turner Prize-winning artist.

The Indian-born British artist, famed for his gigantic public sculptures, including “Cloud Gate” in Chicago and the spiraling red tower “Orbit” in London's Olympic Park, opened the doors of his south London studio to journalists from Turkey last week on the occasion of his upcoming İstanbul show.

Visiting an artist's studio is as exciting as flicking through the manuscript of a novelist's upcoming book. It's almost impossible to avoid a feeling of hesitation even if the invitation came from the artist himself. And it felt exactly this way in Kapoor's studio -- only more magical.

Kapoor designs and creates his signature massive sculptures in a former shutter factory that spreads over some 3,000 square meters. It's impossible to catch a glimpse of each and every detail in this sprawling studio humming with activity. While strolling through the studio's staff as they all kept working on their various tasks in their white coats and masks, Kapoor and the SSM exhibit's curator Norman Rosanthal came to greet us.

Before we begin, Kapoor quickly remarks: “This is not a factory. It's rather a lab.” The 59-year-old artist says he has around 30 assistants and they are assigned with different tasks regarding the artworks and Kapoor deals separately with each of his assistants' work.

The studio is divided into six sections and every room has a different function. On the shelves you can see all kinds of materials, colors, forms, huge industrial-scale machines that are mostly impossible to name one by one.

Kapoor gets noticeably more conversational, recounting the details of his practice as we turn from one room to another. It's impossible to ignore the prominence of colors for Kapoor, who spent his childhood in India. Pigments, shiny metal, mirrors, perfect forms made of wax, pure colors -- all these make up Kapoor's work. Besides not being very easy to handle -- some weigh several tons -- the works are complex, almost all featuring a combination of engineering, architecture and technology.

Kapoor says his works are shaped by time and adds that he usually doesn't start designing a work by knowing exactly what he will have in the end. For Kapoor, art means transformation, and he doesn't work with certain limits as to when he will finalize a particular work. “I never know for sure when I'll start a sculpture and when I'll finish it. I often revisit a work, and that can sometimes take years,” he says.

As SSM Director Nazan Ölçer says, Kapoor is “a profound and multidimensional artist.” He is particularly influenced by the concept of “voidness” and draws a lot of inspiration from literature and philosophy, referring to Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer while speaking about his work. Kapoor is also a painter but he doesn't like to talk about it and says he doesn't have any plans on showcasing his paintings.

When we arrive at our last stop in our tour of Kapoor's studio, he politely asks us not to take pictures of this section, which houses the scale models of his upcoming work. And the scale model of the upcoming showcase at the SSM is also there.

Inspired by Aya Sofya and Cappadocia

After leaving the studio on Farmers Street, we are taken to his other, “secret” studio under a railway bridge. One of his assistants tells the group of journalists how lucky we are: “I've been working with Kapoor for years, and I've never been here before!”

This is a place where Kapoor keeps some of his work, some of them are finished and some are unfinished. And among them, there are pieces that will travel to İstanbul. “I visited İstanbul several times and I know Cappadocia very well. Some of my works carry inspirations from there,” says the artist, right before pointing at one of his works that resembles the famous Wishing Column in Aya Sofya, a column with a hole in the middle covered by bronze plates, which is very popular among tourists.

At that point, curator Rosenthal decides to give us a little hint about the SSM show: “İstanbul is a city that is home to some very significant samples of Roman and Ottoman stone architecture. So in the İstanbul show, we'll also display Kapoor's stone sculptures that have never been exhibited before.”

Musa İğrek, London
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