Loading Spinner

Anish Kapoor (b. 1954)

Lot 17: Anish Kapoor , b. 1954 Untitled carved alabaster


November 14, 2007
New York, NY, US

More About this Item


carved alabaster


alabaster: 64 x 62 3/4 x 23 1/2 in. 162.6 x 159.4 x 59.7 cm. base: 35 1/2 x 65 x 29 1/2 in. 90.2 x 165.1 x 74.9 cm.


Lisson Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2005


Executed in 1999.
Untitled, executed in 1999, is a sublime manifestation of the pioneering spatial inquiry at the heart of this seminal sculptor's most important work. Its scale and presence is inspiring and dominating, addressing the viewer at eye-level and engaging a total bodily experience. One of the largest alabaster works, the sheer magnitude results in a sculptural phenomenon which exudes that supremacy characteristic of a feat of nature. Yet, Untitled stands as an especially intimate and personal work. It provokes primal physical and psychological responses, invites cerebral and spiritual discourse, and exports awe by the vehicle of its beautiful form. Engaging metaphysical polarities, it affords the complex simultaneity of vision, cognition, and comprehension. Finally, it is the serene paean to those dualities that have become so synonymous with the highlights of Kapoor's canon: presence versus absence; infinity versus illusion; solidity versus intangibility.

The monumentality of the stone is juxtaposed with the fragile opalescence of the alabaster. Kapoor and the Italian art dealer Massimo Minini toured excavation opportunities in Brescia, Carrara and Volterra for suitable raw material. Minini recalls how anguished Kapoor was to find that alabaster, once the dignified agent of sacred ornamentation, was now exploited for chess sets and ashtrays. Alabaster is very soft and Kapoor's manipulation of this ancient material continues a tradition arching over hundreds of years, which reached its apogee during the Italian Renaissance. While the depths and crystalline veins of Untitled's translucent stone evidence the history of its formation in the earth's crust, its polished surfaces and geometric forms narrate its transformation into sculpture. Kapoor has identified that "There is a history in the stone and through this simple device of excavating the stone it's just as if a whole narrative sequence is suddenly there" (Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Anish Kapoor, 1998, p. 27). He has also explained that "at the end of the process...the stone becomes something else, becomes light, becomes a proposition, becomes a lens" (Ibid, p. 29). The void of Untitled is a lens forged in space and this sculpture provides a précis of Kapoor's devotion to pure material. Opposed to the ubiquitous colour saturation of earlier works, Untitled reveals the vitality of the chaste stone itself. This work is central to Kapoor's continuing interrogation of the potentiality of space: "The void is not silent. I have always thought of it more and more as a transitional space, an in-between space...for that very first moment of creativity where everything is possible and nothing has actually happened" (Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Anish Kapoor, pp. 35-36). Here he identifies this seed of genesis within the void, negotiating between space and absence. This generative effect of negative space has been deftly explicated by Jacques Lacan: "at a given moment one arrives at illusion...that point concerns the notion that the illusion of space is different from the creation of emptiness" (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book VII - The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960, New York 1986, p. 140). The negative space of Untitled consists of a concave segment of an invisible sphere. However, the stone actually embraces the greater part of an elliptical void whereby the extremities of the cavity recede internally out of view, screened by a tapered curtain of alabaster. Consequently it is impossible to comprehend the entire negative space from any point outside the circular aperture. However, a moving viewpoint shifts the relative dimensions of the void dramatically. The curved disc visible through the opening seems to float in the middle of the sculpture, apparently locked in space at the mineral core. The ellipse - a word derived from the Greek for absence - creates a spatial indeterminacy that posits dynamism at the heart of the monolith. In Kapoor's work, the illusion of space is very different from the creation of emptiness. It is important that Kapoor has chosen the circle as the window to his elliptical negative as the circular offers continuity and concisely answers his question "How does one make a full horizon?" (Exh. Cat., Bregenz, Kunsthaus, Anish Kapoor: My Red Homeland, 2003, p. 63). In his 'Void' works such as Madonna and Mother as a Void (both 1989-90), which have circular apertures well in excess of six feet, vast pigmented concaves facilitate an all-embracing sensation. By contrast, Untitled's concavity resides within a structure, rather than comprising the whole. The distinction between the roughly hewn exterior and the polished recess precipitates a dialogue between presence and solidity versus absence and intangibility, which is much less prevalent in the earlier works. According to Germano Celant, the spherical void also connotes pregnancy: "the circle is also the uterus, the holy enclosure, locus of the Great Mother, primary element of creation and reproduction" (Germano Celant, Anish Kapoor, London 1996, p. xxxv). Clearly Untitled is not figurative, but it evokes those themes of birth and regeneration in Kapoor's output. Meeting the viewer at eye-level, Untitled exemplifies the notion that the cycle of an artwork is only completed by the beholder, and that events in the viewer's experience become events in the work. This again invokes the concept of a circle, equally enlisting both work and beholder: "resonance that's in that stone is something that is resident in you already...It's not a verbal connection, but a bodily one. That's why sculpture occupies the same space as your body" (Anish Kapoor interviewed by John Tusa, BBC Radio 3, 6υth July 2003). Untitled proves the succinct incarnation of the salient tenets of Kapoor's artistic dialectic. It is a sublime artwork whose spiritual enterprise finds a subtly differing ontological response in every viewer. For Kapoor, recognition of a certain spirituality is key to his process, and art has even assumed a religious identity. In an era witnessing the widespread abandonment of traditional belief systems, Untitled posits a spiritual universality that is truly accessible: in Celant's phrase "To allow for the epiphanic reabsorption of the human by the divine" (Germano Celant, Op Cit, p. xxx). Kapoor invests the void with identity, and in so doing creates the spiritual manifestation of infinite potentiality.

Request more information

Contemporary I

November 14, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

New York, NY, US

For Sale from Sotheby's