Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal

Void Pavilion VII 2023

The new exhibition of the Indian artist Anish Kapoor at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence

Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi presents Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal, a major new exhibition in Florence devised and produced with the celebrated artist who has revolutionised the notion of sculpture in contemporary art. Curated by Arturo Galansino, Director General of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, the show will feature monumental installations, intimate environments and thought-provoking forms that will forge an original and captivating dialogue between the art of Anish Kapoor and the architecture and audience of Palazzo Strozzi.

In Anish Kapoor’s art, the unreal merges with the untrue, transforming or negating the common perception of reality. He invites us to explore a world where the boundaries between what is true and false dissolve, opening the doors to the realm of the impossible. One of the distinguishing features is the way Kapoor’s works transcend their materiality. Pigment, stone, steel, wax and silicone, to name only a few of the materials he works with, are manipulated – carved, polished, saturated and formed – to the point of a dissolution of boundaries between the plastic and the immaterial. Colour in Kapoor’s hands is not simply matter and hue, but becomes an immersive phenomenon, containing its own spatial and illusive volume. Kapoor’s works merge empty and full space, absorbing and reflecting surface, geometrical and biomorphic form.

The Exhibition

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal unfolds in the spaces of Palazzo Strozzi in between the galleries at the Piano Nobile and the Renaissance courtyard.

At the centre of the courtyard stands Void Pavilion VII (2023), a large pavilion that serves as both a point of departure and arrival in the dialogue between Kapoor’s art and Palazzo Strozzi. Upon entering the sculpture, visitors are confronted by a triad of rectangular voids that invite the gaze to descend within, offering a meditative experience of space, perspective and time that unsettles the rational geometric structure of the
Renaissance building in which it sits and the orderliness it so emblematically represents.

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal
Svayambhu 2007

At the Piano Nobile, the exhibition takes off with the iconic work Svayambhu (2007), a title that derives from the Sanskrit term denoting self-originated entities, akin to the Christian concept of acheropoieta, images not made by human hands. As this vast block of blood-red wax moves slowly along its track between two rooms of Palazzo Strozzi, it creates a dialectic between void and matter as its formless substance is shaped by the architecture it pushes through.

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal
To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red 1981

This work is presented in dialogue with Endless Column (1992), a work that references Constantin Brâncuși’s iconic modernist sculpture of the same title from 1937. Kapoor’s red pigment sculpture penetrates floor and ceiling to create an aethereal architectural physicality that stands as a link between earth and cosmos. On a different scale but equally architectural is To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red (1981), a seminal work from Kapoor’s early career that marked his breakthrough on the international art scene as a profoundly original voice in contemporary art. A suggestive combination of yellow and red pigment forms, appear to emerge from the floor.

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal
Gathering Clouds 2014

In Non-Object Black (2015), characterised by the use of the highly innovative material Vantablack, capable of absorbing over 99.9% of visible light, Kapoor challenges the very idea of a physical and tangible object, presenting us with a form that dissipates as the gaze moves around it. The fullness of the experience of the no-thing is continued in Gathering Clouds (2014), concave monochromes that absorb the space around them in their brooding darkness. Kapoor’s work offers a new way of seeing and thinking about how we experience ‘reality’, with his unique use of form and saturation these works are permeated with psychic resonance.

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal
Three Days of Mourning, 2016; Tongue Memory, 2016

Flesh, organic matter, body and blood are recurring and fundamental themes in Kapoor’s artistic creation. An entire room is dedicated to works in which Kapoor examines a flayed and ravaged interiority that renders the body as entropic and abjected. The large sculpture in steel and resin A Blackish Fluid Excavation (2018) evokes a gnarled vaginal void, that crosses the space and the senses of the spectator.

On the wall, Kapoor’s paintings created with silicone are shaped with fluid forms that appear to us as visceral masses, pulsating with their own life. Strong tactile sensuality arises from the interplay between softness and solidity, organicity and linearity. These qualities underlie works with evocative titles such as First Milk (2015), Tongue Memory (2016), Today You Will Be in Paradise (2016).

Anish Kapoor. Untrue Unreal
Mirror 2018

The duality between subject and object are central to Kapoor’s mirror works like Vertigo (2006), Mirror (2018) and Newborn (2019). With their inverted reflections, the specular is thrown into the realm of the illusory in works that seem to defy the laws of physics. These large-scale sculptures reflect and distort the surrounding space, enlarging, reducing and multiplying it, creating a sense of unreality and destabilization while drawing the viewer into the indefinite space they emanate.

The exhibition path of the Piano Nobile concludes with Angel (1990): large slate stones covered in numerous layers of intense Prussian blue pigment. These weighty masses appear in contradiction with their ethereal appearance; they seem to solidify the air and suggest the transformation of slate slabs into pieces of sky, transfiguring the concept of purity into a material element.


Palazzo Strozzi

7 October 2023 – 4 February 2024

Opening Times: Everyday 10am-8pm; Thursday until 11pm

Tickets: Full €16, Reduced €13

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