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November 26, 1999
A Silver Bean For Chicago
Shanthi Shankarkumar in Chicago
Is it a big silver bean? A steel kidney? Or an alien spacecraft? Well, it is Indian-born Anish Kapoor's work of art that will be Chicago's latest addition to its renowned public art display. It will join the Picasso, the Chagall and the Dubett as a new Chicago icon. The 'Kapoor sculpture', as officials now call it, will also be the first major public art display of Anish Kapoor in the United States.
The polished stainless steel objet d'art will be the focal point of the city's millennium park, a grand renovation of a former train yard on the north end of Grant Park. The park is estimated to cost nearly $ 200 million and is being financed by a public-private fund partnership. It will open in the summer of 2001. The sculpture itself is funded by a $ 3 million gift from Ameritech and will open in the fall of 2001.
The giant stainless steel structure will be 20 feet tall, 30 feet wide and 60 feet long. It will need nearly 18 tonnes of steel. "I don't believe anybody has ever created a seamless, high-powered stainless steel sculpture this large, so it'll be the first of its kind," said Ed Uhlir, director, Millennium Park. Park visitors will be able to walk underneath the sculpture; its concave surface will rise 12 feet of the ground.
The elliptical sculpture promises to be a breathtaking experience for everybody since it will reflect the city's skyline, the lake, Michigan Avenue -- everything that represents Chicago. Its curved surface will disperse the sun's rays so motorists won't have to be worried about being blinded by the reflected light, added Uhlir.
The park's art committee selected Kapoor's work from among 20 contenders. The number was whittled down to 12 and ultimately, 2. The unique spirit and direction in Kapoor's vast body of work nailed the project.
"The feeling was that Anish's sculpture really reflected the spirit of the next millennium. It was classical in some respects and very contemporary in others. It reflects the individual as well as the skyline and the clouds. The committee thought it was extremely interactive," said Uhlir.
How does Kapoor intend to fabricate and transport this gigantic sculpture?
The work will probably be made in pieces and then transported via Lake Michigan. It will then be welded together and then polished to hide its seams and bring out its reflective surface. "It is a unique structure and Anish has been travelling and looking for a fabricator. So we don't know what he plans to do", said Uhlir.
Born in 1954, in Bombay, Anish Kapoor went to England in the early 1970s to study art. With an ancestry of both Iraqi Jews and Indians, he lived in both India and Israel before making his home in England. However, he resists any attempts to categorize him as an Indian or British artist. He first began to attract worldwide attention in the 1980s with his powerful, intensely-colored powder pigment sculptures. Since then, he has graduated to stone and mirrored metal.
Kapoor has won acclaim from critics, curators and the general public. He won Britain's prestigious Turner prize in 1991 and exhibited at the most respected Premio Duemila Venice Biennale in 1992. He now sits on the Arts Council of England. At any given time during the last decade, the artist has had concurrent exhibitions in three to four different countries. He has done other public installations in Japan, Canada, Israel and Great Britain.
Kapoor's admirers are as diverse as they are numerous. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has his work on display at Number 10, Downing Street. Miuccia Prada of the Italian fashion design family is constructing a gallery only to house Kapoor's work.
Various curators and critics rave about his "globalism", his ability to "use ideas and concepts as launching points for works that lead to works that balance pleasure, beauty and calm". But what sets him apart from other artists of his generation is the way his work combines "a rigorous intellectual and formal approach with an emphasis on the sensuality of color, texture and surface".
Lodovica of Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Kapoor's agents in the United States, analyzes the reason for his astounding success. "His work strike you very emotionally. They combine the form, the aesthetic and conceptual feeling of peace, calm and quiet. This combination of the aesthetic and pureness of his work has contributed to his success."
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