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Anish Kapoor (B. 1954)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Anish Kapoor (B. 1954)

Mother as a Ship

Details
Anish Kapoor (B. 1954)
Mother as a Ship
fibreglass and pigment
84½ x 45¾ x 43½in. (214.6 x 116.2 x 110.5cm.)
Executed in 1989
Provenance
Lisson Gallery, London.
Kohji Ogura Gallery, Nagoya
Private Collection, Nagoya.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 9 November 2004, lot 62.
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 17 May 2007, lot 321.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Exhibited
Nagoya, Kohji Ogura Gallery, Anish Kapoor, 1989 (illustrated in colour).
Nagoya City Art Museum, on extended loan, 1989-2004.
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Annemijn van Grimbergen

Lot Essay

‘To allow for the epiphanic re-absorption of the human by the divine, these works turn the void outward. The enormous mass of blue, and the object’s concave shape, create a kind of vertical abyss, capturing energy and pulling in the observer’s gaze, if not his entire body’ (G. Celant, Anish Kapoor, Milan 1998, p. 30).

‘I think the real subject for me, if there is one, is the sublime. It’s this whole notion of somehow trying to shorten the distance of sublime experience. If one is looking at a Friedrich painting of a figure looking at the sunset, then one is having one’s reverie in terms of their experience. It is my wish to make that distance shorter so that the reverie is direct. You’re not watching someone else do it; you’re compelled to do it yourself’ (A. Kapoor, quoted in interview with M. Gayford, Modern Painters, Spring 2000).

Submerging the viewer in its deep vortex of rich, velvety blue, Mother as a Ship is a majestic early example of Anish Kapoor’s wall pigment works. Though the artist had been experimenting with raw pigments since the late 1970s, it was not until 1989 – the year of the present work – that he began to apply them to large-scale sculptures suspended upon the wall. With its curved, sensuous form seeming to disappear into infinity, the work instills an overpowering, mystical sense of vertigo within the viewer, its saturated palette recalling the transcendental blue canvases of Yves Klein. Gazing into the dark, impenetrable cavity of the sculpture, the viewer experiences the sensation of the void through their sublimation by pure pigment. The work operates as an existential portal, a strange meeting point between the immaterial and material worlds, between the viewer’s innate sense of self and of the interminable nothingness that lies beyond our immediate grasp. Inducing a profound sense of near-spiritual awe in the viewer, its vast scale and chromatic impregnation bring about a kind of transfiguration, throwing our own physical presence into stark relief. As Germano Celant has commented, ‘To allow for the epiphanic re-absorption of the human by the divine, these works turn the void outward. The enormous mass of blue, and the object’s concave shape, create a kind of vertical abyss, capturing energy and pulling in the observer’s gaze, if not his entire body’ (G. Celant, Anish Kapoor, Milan 1998, p. 30). The work’s title – Mother as a Ship – hints at this very act, invoking the notion of the sculpture as a vessel, equipped to transport the viewer between ulterior realms. Other prominent examples of Kapoor’s blue pigment works are now housed in major museum collections, including At the Hub of Things, 1987 (Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.) and Madonna, 1989-1990 (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid).

Fascinated by primary colour in its raw state, Kapoor first put these pigments to use in the collective work 1000 Names (1979-1985), applying liberal swathes of colour to fantastical geometric formations, and allowing the granules to accumulate on the floor around the base of the sculptures. In the late 1980s, Kapoor began to apply these pigments to his sculptural voids, initially positioning them on the floor before raising them to the wall. Explaining the transition, Kapoor has spoken of how ‘An essential issue in my work is that the scale always relates to the body. In the pigment works from 1979 to 1983 a sense of place was generated between objects. This place has now moved inside the object so it has been necessary to change the scale. The place within is a mind/ body space. A shrine for a person’ (A. Kapoor, quoted in M. Allthorpe-Guyton, ‘Mostly Hidden’, in Anish Kapoor, exh. cat., British Council for the XLIV Venice Biennale, London, 1990, p. 50). His immense, colour-infused spaces have often been compared to Abstract Expressionism’s revival of the sublime, which sought to simulate transcendence by physically overwhelming the viewer with vast chromatic fields. As Kapoor himself has explained, ‘I think the real subject for me, if there is one, is the sublime. It’s this whole notion of somehow trying to shorten the distance of sublime experience. If one is looking at a Friedrich painting of a figure looking at the sunset, then one is having one’s reverie in terms of their experience. It is my wish to make that distance shorter so that the reverie is direct. You’re not watching someone else do it; you’re compelled to do it yourself’ (A. Kapoor, quoted in interview with M. Gayford, Modern Painters, Spring 2000). Yet whilst Barnett Newman and his contemporaries attempted to bring about this experience through the ultimately fat medium of paint, Kapoor sought new dimensions for the sublime by crafting a physical, three-dimensional expression of the void before the viewer. The idea with these works, Kapoor has explained, is ‘to make an object which is not an object, to make a hole in the space, to make something which actually does not exist’ (A. Kapoor, quoted in C. Lewallen, ‘Anish Kapoor’, in View, vol. 8, no. 4, 1991).

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