Anish Kapoor‘s art installation ” Memory” in Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Video by Studio Mercury.
With the inauguration of the Deutsche Guggenheim in 1997, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank launched a unique and ambitious program of contemporary art commissions that has enabled the Guggenheim to act as a catalyst for artistic production. Anish Kapoor: Memory is the fourteenth commission project to be completed since the program’s inception and is the Guggenheim’s first collaboration with Anish Kapoor, an artist celebrated for his expansive vision and profound aesthetics.
Memory (2008) is a site-specific work that was conceived to engage two different exhibition locations at the Guggenheim museums in Berlin and New York. Utilizing Cor-Ten steel for the first time, the sculpture represents a milestone in Kapoor’s career. Memory’s thin steel skin, only eight millimeters thick, suggests a form that is ephemeral and unmonumental. The sculpture appears to defy gravity as it gently glances against the periphery of the gallery walls and ceiling. However, as a 24-ton volume, Memory is also raw, industrial, and foreboding. Positioned tightly within the gallery, Memory is never fully visible; instead the work fractures and divides the gallery into several distinct viewing areas. The division compels visitors to navigate the museum, searching for vantage points that offer only glimpses of the sculpture. This processional method of viewing Memory is an intrinsic aspect of the work. Visitors are asked to contemplate the ensuing fragmentation by attempting to piece together images retained in their minds, exerting effort in the act of seeing—a process Kapoor describes as creating a “mental sculpture.”
Memory’s rusting exterior creates a powdery surface, which relates this commission to Kapoor’s early pigment pieces from the 1980s. Rather than necessitating an additional coat of paint to smooth the interior curvature, the sculpture’s Cor-Ten tiles, perfectly manufactured to prevent light from seeping through, create the necessary conditions for darkness within. The work’s square aperture—wedged precisely into one of the gallery’s walls—allows a view into this boundless interior void. The endless darkness seems to contradict what visitors know about the work’s delimited exterior. This contradiction between the known and the perceived is one of Kapoor’s central interests. The window also defines a two-dimensional plane that can be read as a painting rather than an opening. Kapoor’s interest in this pictorial effect is best reflected in his statement “I am a painter working as a sculptor.”
Anish Kapoor was born in 1954 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. He has lived in London since the early 1970s and quickly rose to prominence in the 1980s. Best known for his explorations of “the void,” and for his experiments with color, scale, and materiality, he has redefined contemporary sculpture. Kapoor has exhibited extensively both in London and internationally; his solo shows have included venues such as Kunsthalle Basel, Tate Gallery and Hayward Gallery in London, Reina Sofia in Madrid, CAPC in Bordeaux, Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston and MAK Vienna. The Royal Academy is currently hosting “Anish Kapoor”, a major solo exhibition that is scheduled to travel to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in March 2010. Kapoor represented Britain at the XLIV Venice Biennale in 1990 when he was awarded the Premio Duemila prize. He is the recipient of the prestigious Turner Prize, awarded in 1991. He has undertaken a number of major large-scale installations and commissions, including Taratantara (Baltic, Gateshead, 1999 and Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples), Marsyas (Tate Modern, London, 2002), Cloud Gate (Millennium Park, Chicago, 2004), Sky Mirror (Rockefeller Center, New York, 2006), Shooting into the Corner (MAK, Vienna, 2009) and Svayambh (Royal Academy, London, 2009).
The accompanying exhibition catalogue provides an in-depth analysis of Kapoor’s creative intellectual process, and offers glimpses into the development of Memory from the initial models to the final installation in Berlin. Multidisciplinary essays authored by Henri Lustiger-Thaler, Sandhini Poddar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Steven Holl with David van der Leer, and Christopher Hornzee-Jones inscribe Memory within a broad critical framework. The publication also features a comprehensive exhibition history and bibliography on Anish Kapoor.
Curated by Sandhini Poddar, Assistant Curator of Asian Art
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York:
An internationally renowned art museum and one of the most significant architectural icons of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum in New York is at once a vital cultural center, an educational institution, and the heart of an international network of museums. Visitors can experience special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, lectures by artists and critics, performances and film screenings, classes for teens and adults, and daily tours of the galleries led by museum educators. Founded on a collection of early modern masterpieces, the Guggenheim Museum today is an ever-evolving institution devoted to the art of the 20th century and beyond
In 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a building to house the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which had been established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1939. In a letter dated June 1, 1943, Hilla Rebay, the curator of the foundation and director of the museum, instructed Wright, “I want a temple of spirit, a monument!”
Wright’s inverted-ziggurat design was not built until 1959. Numerous factors contributed to this 16-year delay: modifications to the design (all told, the architect produced 6 separate sets of plans and 749 drawings), the acquisition of additional property, and the rising costs of building materials following World War II. The death of the museum’s benefactor, Solomon R. Guggenheim, in 1949 further delayed the project. It was not until 1956 that construction of the museum, renamed in Guggenheim’s memory, finally began.
Wright’s masterpiece opened to the public on October 21, 1959, six months after his death, and was immediately recognized as an architectural icon. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is arguably the most important building of Wright’s late career. A monument to modernism, the unique architecture of the space, with its spiral ramp riding to a domed skylight, continues to thrill visitors and provide a unique forum for the presentation of contemporary art. In the words of critic Paul Goldberger, “Wright’s building made it socially and culturally acceptable for an architect to design a highly expressive, intensely personal museum. In this sense almost every museum of our time is a child of the Guggenheim.”
Wright’s original plans for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum called for a ten-story tower behind the smaller rotunda, to house galleries, offices, workrooms, storage, and private studio apartments. Largely for financial reasons, Wright’s proposed tower went unrealized. In 1990, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects revived the plan with its eight-story tower, which incorporates the foundation and framing of a smaller 1968 annex designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son-in-law, William Wesley Peters.
In 1992, after a major interior renovation, the museum reopened with the entire original Wright building now devoted to exhibition space and completely open to the public for the first time. The tower contains 4,750 square meters of new and renovated gallery space, 130 square meters of new office space, a restored restaurant, and retrofitted support and storage spaces. The tower’s simple facade and grid pattern highlight Wright’s unique spiral design and serves as a backdrop to the rising urban landscape behind the museum.
In 2008, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was designated a National Historic Landmark; in 2015, along with nine other buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building was nominated by the United States to be included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.