Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Anish Kapoor
stainless steel
257 by 272 by 65cm.; 101¼ by 107 by 25½in.
Executed in 2007.
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Philips de Pury & Company, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2008

Catalogue Note

"I suppose I am looking for a state where a thing seems to be fully formed, pure, essential, unencumbered by making! I love the idea that there are two kinds of becoming: one is an almost cinematic experience of the object, of its seeming evolution as one looks at it; the other is an internal state, a more poetic one, of the becoming of the work in the imagination of the viewer."

The artist in conversation with Nicholas Baume in: Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Anish Kapoor: Past Present Future, 2008, pp. 46-7

Executed in 2007, Anish Kapoor's stunning Untitled manifests the pioneering ingenuity in material and spatial possibilities that characterises the superlative output of this world-renowned sculptor. The synthesis of its meticulous and flawless execution and extraordinary manipulation of visual-somatic experience distinguish it as a sculptural phenomenon. A significant achievement within his iconic mirror works, Untitled divides Kapoor's signature liquid, reflective mirror surface into an interlocking pattern of hexagonal fragments resembling honeycomb. These pixelated facets evoke Kapoor's persistent return to natural forms, evincing technically abstract subjects that nevertheless suggest organic origins. The philosophical underpinnings of this aesthetic are Kapoor's belief that "form has metaphysical memory": the possibility of pure form to elicit physical, emotional and metaphysical responses from the viewer drives his oeuvre (the artist in: The Eye: Anish Kapoor, a documentary by Illuminations, 2002).

The astounding physical properties of Untitled invoke a conceptual dialogue with our perception and interpretation of space. In ways similar to Lucio Fontana, whose groundbreaking and pioneering project of Spatialism abandoned dependence on the picture plane to seek another dimension beyond the canvas, Kapoor has spoken of his search for the "infinite" and asserted that "to make new art you have to make a new space" (the artist in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Anish Kapoor, 1998, p. 52). Yet unlike Fontana, whose violent slashes and holes tear through the skin of painting as esoteric portals into an imagined spatial infinity, Kapoor strives for an accessible domain of "new space" that includes the viewer. Epitomised by Untitled, which notably hangs like a painting, Kapoor's approach breaks from art historical precedent: "In a painting the space is beyond the picture plane, but in the mirrored voids it is in front of the object and includes the viewer. It's the contemporary equivalent of the sublime, which is to do with the self – its presence, absence or loss. According to the Kantian idea, the sublime is dangerous because it induces vertigo – you might fall into the abyss and be lost forever. In these sculptures you lose yourself in the infinite" (the artist interviewed by Sarah Kent in: Royal Academy of Arts Magazine, Autumn 2009, No. 104, p. 43). Indeed, the disorientation of Kapoor's mirror incites both an affirmation and negation of reality, as it purposefully shatters and sublimely confounds the viewer's gaze.   

With Untitled, Kapoor superbly harnesses mirror's ability to generate liminal, expanded space within the finite realm of its environment. "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; it does something else, especially on concave surfaces" (the artist in: Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Anish Kapoor, 2008, p. 53). The sub-division of a slick, continuous mirror into the regular and prismatic pixilation of the present work evokes a long tradition of engagement with sacred or otherwise transcendent geometries. From medieval Islamic uses of Plato's ratios to devise abstract patterns, to Sol LeWitt's rigorously formal but inescapably poetic explorations of the grid, the pursuit of aesthetic effect via mathematical harmonies evokes a rich history. Kapoor here forcefully revivifies this concern, responding equally to modern scientific understandings of perception and psychological theories of visual self-examination. Attesting to the truly postmodern qualities of Kapoor's concave mirror dishes, Nicholas Baume has written: "its shallow depth verifies the impossibility of its form concealing deep space; instead its skin becomes a hyperactive screen on which the viewer appears live, in multiple, simultaneous, abstracted iterations" (Nicholas Baume in: Op Cit, p. 26). Transformed by Untitled, the fractured subject finds both alarm in its dispersion and pleasure in the beauty of its dissolution.

Using concrete material, Kapoor persuades the viewer of the intangible and admits the possibility of the infinite. Untitled is both material and immaterial, and finally provides a profound vindication of Jacques Lacan's declaration that "the illusion of space is different from the creation of emptiness" (Jacques Lacan in: Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book VII - The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960, New York 1986, p. 140).


Contemporary Art Evening Auction