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28.8.04

Anish Kapoor, Cloudgate

John Russell Taylor's article (Anish Kapoor - a reflection of Henry Moore, August 10) for The Times (London) discusses the sculpture ("140 tons of stainless steel") created by Anish Kapoor for the new Millennium Park, Chicago ("just uptown from the Art Institute"). Since he compares these new works to those of Henry Moore, I sat up and paid attention (especially since the American coverage of this story occurred mostly in July, while I was in Europe):

Kapoor was to do the garden sculpture, and Jeff Koons the one at the entrance. But no one liked the design Koons submitted. Kapoor's planned piece was deemed too grand for the garden, so it was moved early in the planning stage to the entrance site and became in Kapoor's mind what is now called Cloudgate. It is, strictly speaking, the only sculpture in the park. A necessary qualification: according to the regulations governing Grant Park, out of which this park is carved, no building is permitted. So Frank Gehry's new open-air concert hall becomes legally a sculpture, as does Jaume Plensa's electronic fountain, both of which are clearly works of architecture. [...]

Kapoor triumphantly holds its place amid the assertive architectural competition. It stands about five storeys high, but it appears to be as light as a helium balloon, hovering close to the earth but not really on it. (It is supported on two tiny points at either end.) In shape it is like a gigantic inverted kidney, under the central curve of which the public is invited to walk. In Kapoor's conception it is meant to be interactive: as visitors enter the park beneath its gleaming mass they are able to see themselves reflected in its perfect mirror surface. From the Michigan Avenue side, as you approach, it gives back a phantasmagoric reflection of the highrises opposite in the Loop financial area. From the park side you see instead the relatively empty landscape of Grant Park running down towards the lake, but all reflected bending up and away according to the sculpture’s curvature. Hence its name, Cloudgate, implying at once that it is an entrance and exit. [...]

Many people in Chicago have compared Cloudgate with something that at first glance seems totally unlike it, the Henry Moore bronze Nuclear Energy. This enormous skull-like shape, brooding on what looks like a rock, was commissioned for the site in the University of Chicago where the first controlled nuclear chain reaction occurred in 1942. The comparison sounds weird, though both give the impression of deep creative thought, and manage to be imposing without striking any heroic poses. But the more one thinks about it, the more one can see Kapoor as a potential Henry Moore for the new century, with sculptures on every campus and in front of every city hall in the known world.
(I've added the links, so you can put some images to Taylor's words.) I love the weighted curviness of Moore's sculpture, based on his careful study of shapes he collected from nature. (I remember lingering in front of a glass case of such rocks and other objects in this exhibit on Moore at the National Gallery of Art in 2001.) I understand why Taylor made the comparison, but for me Cloudgate has something machine-produced about it that is completely foreign to Henry Moore. The sculpture was blogged by Chenu-J.net on August 16 and by The Machine's Still On on August 6. (Note the unique and vaguely disturbing view of the sculpture from inside it in the latter post.)

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