Anish Kapoor

This event has now finished. Until Dec 11 2009

Svayambh, 2007 Svayambh, 2007 - © Ville de Nantes/Musée des Beaux Arts. Photo Cecile Clos, Nantes

Time Out says  

Posted: Fri Sep 25 2009

Watch Time Out Art editor Ossian Ward's video tour of the exhibition.

It's easy to be wowed by Anish Kapoor. Seductive shapes, shiny surfaces, bright colours and mysterious voids all add up to crowd-pleasing, sometimes tastefully inclusive art experiences. Add to that list his recent departures into theme-park thrills and public mega-sculpture and you have the identikit of everyone's favourite contemporary artist. Except Kapoor has tackled this latest show - and any such criticisms of aesthetic flatlining - head-on, including more new work than tried-and-tested old favourites, trying out big ideas fearlessly.

He's also ruined the Royal Academy, figuratively and abstractly. The mess is everywhere: don't lean up against the wall in the room of Kapoor's early ziggurats and pyramids, because a light dusting of magenta pigment (redolent of his native India's powder-throwing Holi celebrations) drifts down from one heavenly object, smudging the ledges. Next door a giant yellow plunger head is sunk into the fabric of the building, the convex bowl at once a comic gob mouthing a sexy 'oooh' while also resembling a garish waterslide into infinity. Turn left and a giant cannon goes off, firing red wax at the RA's elegant stuccoed ceiling and mahogany doorframe - potshots fired by one of its own Academicians. Then there's Kapoors' funereal trundling train, 'Svayambh' (Sanskrit for 'self-generated'), dragging its Vaseline-covered crimson carriage through five stately arches, leaving its globby carnage behind.

How has he ruined the RA abstractly, you may ask? Well, he's made it nigh on impossible for future artist-occupants to follow this installation with anything approaching its ambition, breadth or power. There's more to the show-stopping gun and train pieces than mere grandstanding, however, as the burgundy blubber in both darkly echoes the blood lining our Great British Empire's corridors of power and its slaveship hulls.

'Hive' is another vessel pregnant with possibility; from its uterine steel shell and enticing aperture to the way it ultimately refuses to reveal itself, even to viewers who wander its perimeter incessantly and peer intrepidly into its depths. There are more challenges; in Kapoor's maze of turd-like cement coils, mounds and hillocks that squirm and writhe before your eyes, as well as in the parallax errors caused by a central hall of mirrors that distorts and reflects physicality to the point of 'Vertigo' (the title of one majestic curving wall of polished stainless steel).

The only bum note is a writhing fibreglass funnel spewing a shiny red vulva called 'Slug', which recalls the slick furnisculpture or design art of Zaha Hadid rather than the beastie it takes its name from. Kapoor can still prompt a gasp, but the grungier his gestures becomes, the more fertile his alchemy.

Royal Academy of Arts details

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J OBD

Royal Academy of Arts

Britain's first art school was founded in 1768 and moved to the extravagantly Palladian Burlington House a century later. It is now best known for...

Read full venue review

Transport Piccadilly Circus 


020 7300 8000

10am-6pm daily, until 10pm Fri (last adm 30 mins before closing)