Lot 417
  • 417

Anish Kapoor

350,000 - 450,000 GBP
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  • Anish Kapoor
  • Untitled
  • alabaster
  • 72.6 by 67.3 by 29.2cm.; 28 1/2 by 26 1/2 by 11 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 1997.


Lisson Gallery, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1999


San Gimignano, Chiesa di San Giusto and Pinacoteca, Arte Continua, 1997
London, Lisson Gallery, Anish Kapoor, 1998


Germano Celant, Ed., Anish Kapoor, Milan 1998, pp. 238-9, illustrated in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Anish Kapoor, 1998, p. 80, illustrated in colour
David Anfam, Anish Kapoor, London 2009, p. 208, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly warmer and there are fewer magenta undertones in the original. The catalogue illustration also fails to fully convey the depth of the cavity visible in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. All surface irregularities are in keeping with the artist's working process.
"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

Beautifully carved from a single bloc of alabaster, Untitled is a wonderful example from a series of works in this mineral Anish Kapoor created in 1997, a material he would revisit in subsequent years. The irregular edges and rough outside of the sculpture contrast starkly with the highly polished and smooth cavity the artist carved out of its centre, inviting the viewer to explore the depths of the stone, trying to penetrate it visually and delve into its interior. Having remained in the same private collection for the last two decades, Untitled was exhibited in the Church of San Giusto in Volterra in 1999 alongside the other works of its series. Displayed in San Giusto’s cloister, this unique setting imbued Kapoor’s alabasters with an aura of serene tranquillity, a quasi-spiritual quality that almost likened them to icons on an altar.

Kapoor’s investigation of stone had already started in 1987, ten years before the execution of Untitled. Having created a series of works in which he covered geometrically shaped forms in pigment, the artist decided to embark on the exploration of this new material, with which he was able to investigate the possibilities of creating positive and negative space. It was precisely this new medium that enabled Kapoor to discover what would come to be the hallmark of his work; the representation of the void. Carving holes and orifices out of different types of stone at first, Kapoor soon became interested with the possibilities the material gave him to create a sense of depth and emptiness, of infinite space that would draw the viewer into his works and challenge their own position in space and in front of the sculptures. Of these cavities, Dr David Anfam has written that “rather than give his stones a countenance, Kapoor inscribes upon them the sign of emptiness: an excavated core that can be inky black…faintly polished…night-sky indigo…more illuminated…or raised to the pitch of a circular excavation glowing like a cryptic orb (the alabaster series of 1997)” (David Anfam, Anish Kapoor, London 2009, p. 100). Indeed, in Untitled Kapoor carved out a perfect circle out of the very centre of the alabaster cube, enabling the light that penetrates it from behind to permeate it and illuminate it from within.

The use of stone, as Dr Anfam has further described, “meshes two more of Kapoor’s idées fixes: time and place. He has cited a ‘sense of geology’ in his work and others suggest his stone communicates a supra-human timescale” (Ibid., p. 102). Rightly so, Untitled exquisitely bears testament to the passage of time; formed over hundreds of years, alabaster was widely used in Ancient Egypt for sacred and sepulchral objects, and later its translucent quality and malleability popularised it during the 14th and 15th Centuries as a material for effigies, ornamental objects and even on windows in churches and cathedrals across Europe. Untitled, too, attests to its creative process; the rugged, unpolished surface of the ‘untouched’ mineral reminds of the quarries it comes from – Kapoor conscientiously sourced each alabaster block for the series in several excavation sites around Volterra. On the other hand, the highly polished cavity prompts thoughts about the artist’s hand, the studio, and anticipates Kapoor’s mirrorlike surfaces of later years. The dichotomy created by these seemingly oppositional qualities of Untitled lies nonetheless at the heart of the artist’s practice. As professor Partha Mitter has described: “With its different and sometimes contradictory elements, Kapoor’s work thrives on coincidentia oppositorum, the coexistence of opposites. He explores metaphysical polarities: presence and absence; being and nothingness; place and nonplace; the solid and the intangible; objective and non-objective. His approach has resonance with Samkhya, the ancient Indian dualist philosophy and its belief in the two constant polarities in the universe, prakriti (material essence) and purusha (consciousness)” (Partha Mitter, ‘History, Memory, And Anish Kapoor’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future, 2008, p. 118).

Captivatingly serene, Untitled beckons peaceful contemplation and thought. The viewer is invited to circle the sculpture, their eyes resting upon each detail of the surface, noticing the changes in the grain, the nuances in its colour and the veins in its core. Standing elegantly and irradiating delicate beams of light, Untitled perfectly embodies Kapoor’s artistic project: “I wish to make sculpture about belief, or about passion, about experience” (the artist cited in: Op. cit., p. 91).