Inside the belly of the beast
Anish Kapoor’s installation Leviathan opens at the Grand Palais in Paris
PARIS. Anish Kapoor today unveils his largest and most ambitious sculpture to date. Leviathan is a gigantic installation made from 18 tonnes of PVC, which fills the nave of the Grand Palais in Paris and encompasses 13,500 sq. m of space.
The huge biomorphic form consists of four connected orbs supported not by a steel skeleton but with air, which is pumped continuously into the structure.
Visitors to the Grand Palais will first use a revolving door to enter inside the belly of Kapoor’s beast. This is a vast, soaring chamber bathed in red light, which the artist says he hopes has a “cathedral-like quality”.
From here visitors exit to see Leviathan from the outside for the first time. “The exterior appears to bear no relation to the interior yet they co-exist simultaneously. That’s what the work is about,” says Kapoor.
Although the Indian-born British artist is not known for thinking small, he says the challenges of making Leviathan were unprecedented. The first was to cope with the light which floods through the Grand Palais’ glass ceilings. “The light is the killer. It’s almost brighter inside than it is outside. It crushes things. The thing is to try and reverse it.”
To do this, Kapoor chose “a very dark membrane” but he says he didn’t know what this would look like on a giant scale until the work was erected. “We only had one shot to get it right,” says Kapoor, adding that he and his crew took a week to install the work.
A known perfectionist, Kapoor says the work was designed down to the last millimetre. “The tailoring is perfect,” he says. “It has to be. Otherwise there would be wrinkles. There are no wrinkles,” he says adding that the computer design for Leviathan was done in England, the PVC was cut in Germany, it was stitched together in Italy and a Czech crew installed it in Paris.
Although Kapoor used the very latest technology to build Leviathan, he says his intention was to create a form that is “primal” in its appearance. “Part of my inspiration is Stanley Kubrick [the director whose films include ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’],” he says, adding that abstract art is able to find the “expressive force of primary forms”.
Commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture as their annual Monumenta exhibition, the sculpture cost €3m to manufacture.
Kapoor has dedicated Leviathan to the imprisoned artist Ai Weiwei who has not been seen or heard from since he was detained by Chinese authorities in early April. Describing Ai’s imprisonment as “barbaric”, Kapoor said he believes the art world should do more to campaign for his release. “Perhaps all museums and galleries should be closed for a day...some such campaign needs to form itself.”
Leviathan is on display at the Grand Palais until 23 June.