Lot 24
  • 24

Anish Kapoor

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Anish Kapoor
  • Turning the World Upside Down (Blue)
  • signed, dated 2006 and variously inscribed on the reverse
  • paint and aluminium 
  • 220 by 220 by 47 cm. 86 7/8 by 86 7/8 by 18 1/2 in.


Lisson Gallery, London

Acquired from the above by the present owner 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate although the blue tends more towards azure in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals a light layer of superficial dust on the work's surface.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Dizzying and immersive, Turning the World Upside Down (Blue) (Blue) unsettles and amplifies the viewer’s perception of space, subverting their visual expectations. In its rippling surface we see ourselves and the world around us, distorted and inverted. Spanning over two metres in diameter, the concave form appears to suck in light from the room surrounding it, encompassing and emphasising the space, dying it a deep blue. Within the confines of the sphere Kapoor has created a seductive vision which constantly reacts to both audience and setting. In Kapoor’s words, “The interesting thing about a polished surface to me is that when it is really perfect enough something happens – it literally ceases to be physical; it levitates… what happens with concave surfaces is, in my view, completely beguiling” (Anish Kapoor cited in: Exh. Cat., Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Anish Kapoor, 2008, p. 53). 

Executed in 2006, Turning the World Upside Down (Blue) forms part of a widely celebrated series of mirror sculptures begun in the 1990s, which are exhibited in public spaces and museums all over the world. Although each approaches its task in a different fashion, the purpose of all the works in this series is to capture what Kapoor calls the ‘contemporary sublime’. This notion is based on the idea that a new form of art has emerged that challenges the primacy of the picture plane and the space in which art is intended to exist. In Kapoor’s words, the “traditional sublime is in deep space,” thus in order to create a new sublime, “you have to create a new space… in front of the picture plane” (Ibid.).

Turning the World Upside Down (Blue) epitomises that aim. Drawing in light and images from its surroundings, beyond the frame of the viewer’s vision, and well beyond the scope of the picture plane, it succeeds in creating an alternative reality. This reality is not notable simply because it is distorted, or tinted, but because it refers to a different space altogether. In the same way that the effects of Dan Flavin sculptures are not confined to the light bulbs themselves, but rather their effect on the room, it is the presence of Turning the World Upside Down (Blue) that makes it such an exceptional work. In this tendency, Kapoor echoes the work of artists such as Michael Heizer and James Turrell, who force the viewer to re-examine the banal and intimately familiar beauty of the day to day, be that the sky, framed and isolated in one of Turrell’s Skyspaces, or one of Heizer’s anachronistic boulders, whose placement forces aesthetic revaluation on the part of the viewer. In a similar fashion Turning the World Upside Down (Blue) forces a heightened awareness of space on the part of the viewer, as well as a reappraisal of the room one stands in, and the objects within it.

It should also be noted that Kapoor’s “contemporary sublime” relies upon constituent material as much as subject, as it is with his choice of medium that Kapoor has been most unfailingly inventive. He has consistently defied the notion that a sculptor must respect the inherent nature of his materials, saying: “‘Truth to materials’ ran, and runs, contrary to everything I want to do”; and yet the materials themselves are vital, as they enable the deception, which in turn creates the new space (Anish Kapoor cited in: Charlotte Higgins, ‘A Life in Art: Anish Kapoor’, The Guardian, 8 November 2008, online). As Kapoor states: “art is all about illusion and the unreal” (Ibid.). The illusory space created thus serves a similar function to the canvases and sculptures executed by artists such as Ad Reinhardt and Yves Klein. It is a void, comprised of colour, which seeks transcendence on the part of the viewer. Turning the World Upside Down (Blue) is thus a direct transmission of a mystical idea, through the creation of a new space.

This is a space that can be seen, but does not exist. The viewer willingly enters into the illusion and seeks the new sublime that Kapoor has created. Even so, while the viewer knows that what he sees does not exist, the tension between the real and the imagined, the body and the mind, is palpable. Seductive and transcendent, Turning the World Upside Down (Blue) epitomises Kapoor’s fundamentally democratic practice, privileging the viewer’s experience of the work over the artistic conceit that triggered its execution. As he has said, “it is the artist's duty to find poetic meaning in things,” and to transmit that meaning to the viewer (Ibid.).