Mister Big ; the Sculptor Anish Kapoor Has Always Thought on a Grand Scale. on the Eve of His Latest Show, He Talks about His Most Recent Projects - from a Public Art Work in Chicago, to a Tube Station for Naples. Interview by Doris Lockhart Saatchi Portrait by Trev
Interview Doris Lockhart Saatchi, The Independent (London, England)
ANISH KAPOOR never seems to stop working. No sooner has the artist's monumental piece, Marsyas, been dismantled and moved from Tate Modern to storage in a field in Norfolk, than an exhibition of new work opens at London's Lisson Gallery. Next month his set designs for a new (Simon Rattle-conducted) production of Mozart's Idomeneo make their debut at Glyndebourne; he is showing for the first time in South Korea; and another larger-than-life sculpture by the 49-year-old artist is destined for Chicago. Phew. You begin to wonder, does he ever have any down time?
As befits a successful artist, Kapoor's working space is rather smart. Housed in a brick building (a former shutters factory) in Camberwell, south London, it is staffed by bright-eyed young people who quietly go about their business, documenting his work, organising its storage, keeping track of his diary, planning his travel and making coffee and tea for the various curators, journalists, dealers and art world fixers who are allowed to disturb the artist's working day.
On the day I visit, Kapoor is pleased because his many drawings are in the process of being sorted and carefully stowed in chronological order in gleaming new filing cabinets. They are mostly luminous blobs of colour absorbed into thick, heavily textured paper with rough, uneven edges. "I'd like to have a drawing show," says Kapoor, as if thinking out loud, as he leafs through the layers of tissue protecting each work.
An exhibition of drawings would certainly surprise an audience used to Kapoor's work on a far larger scale. In the six months that Marsyas was installed in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall (the third in the prestigious Unilever Series), Kapoor's blood-red, stretched skin of a piece was seen by an estimated 1.8 million people, which must make it one of the most famous works of sculpture in the world.
For some critics, at 160 metres long, Marsyas was more piece of architecture than art object. Its construction required the calculations of the structural engineer Cecil Balmond, who has worked with many of the world's leading architects, including Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind. Kapoor says that this confusion of boundaries was deliberate. "My work relates to architecture because it's about enclosure ... about making a place." As a further example of this idea, two smaller-scale, free-standing works in his current show, which he describes as "curved paintings", curl around a space big enough for an adult to shelter in.
Kapoor's interest in and knowledge of the architectural process is considerable, resulting in 2001 in his being named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Before that he and his wife Susanne commissioned the modernist architect Pip Horne to design their Notting Hill house (the result is an inviting version of minimalism) and, recently, Kapoor has collaborated with Amanda Levete and Jan Kaplicky of the architectural practice Future Systems on proposals for the South Bank Centre and the Princess Diana Memorial. Both were acknowledged as successful though neither won the commission. The trio have had better luck with their design for a metro station in Naples, which is about to go on site.
Kapoor's new show, Painting, is his seventh solo show at the Lisson Gallery since his first there, 21 years ago. The gallery's founder Nicholas Logsdail signed him up in 1980 after seeing his work in a Coracle Press show, in a space just 10 minutes away from his present studio. Artists are not known for long-term loyalty to their dealers but Logsdail is f special. Since he founded his gallery in an unfashionable street off London's Edgware Road 36 years ago, he has maintained an international reputation by showing only the artists whose work he believes in. In the dark ages before there was exciting new art in this country, that work came from "difficult" American artists such as the minimalists Donald Judd and Dan Flavin and conceptualists like Sol LeWitt. …