As if there were actually light at the end of the tunnel. That is the first thing that comes to mind when you step into the cloister from the Abbey Square. It sparkles at the end of the corridor. As we draw nearer, we see a shallow, bowl-shaped mirror reflecting in every direction. Three meters in diameter, consisting of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of triangular mirror fragments attached to a molded surface in ever changing angles. The name of this work of art is ‘Random Triangle Mirror’. Those who know his work will immediately recognize Anish Kapoor’s signature.
The masonry vaults, the Gothic stained-glass windows, the weathered tiles on the floor. Of itself, the cloister already has that sacred atmosphere. No one would be surprised if they were to encounter a monk reciting prayers.
Within Anish Kapoor’s mirror, all of this sacrality is reflected infinitely for the approaching visitor. And Kapoor would not be Kapoor if he did not touch his viewer’s nerve. Standing at a meters distance from the mirror, you suddenly see yourself. First a careful, semi-realistic image. One step closer, and you see yourself presented in endless self portraits. ‘The ultimate selfie moment’, predicts CBK director and Façade curator Kathrin Ginsberg.
There is more than meets the eye. Just try speaking to yourself, or to a fellow visitor. Standing at the right distance -a matter of trying- your voice sounds as if it were being absorbed in the mirror and coming out amplified. Whispering is enough to give a speech.
Along with Austrian Erwin Wurm, Anish Kapoor is the internationally renowned and celebrated elite of this year’s Façade. He did not create the mirror that currently lights up the cloister especially for Middelburg. However, the installation fits seamlessly into the central theme of ‘safeguarding fear’ thanks to its distorted, surprising, confrontational reality. In this historical, spiritual environment where dimensions are added to sight and hearing, you can imagine yourself escaping the world, free from threats and suffering.
Those who wish to immerse themselves in the work of Kapoor, will have to travel to Venice this summer. In Gallerie dell’Academia – say the city’s Rijksmuseum (National Gallery) – and in the Palazzo Manfrin which he bought, he offers an impressive survey of his work comprising about sixty works. His black is so black that his black holes completely suck you into black nothingness. An extra-proportional pregnant belly rises up from a wall in the exhibition hall without you being able to make out where it starts or ends. And then there is the slaughterhouse. Large chunks of silicone and paint appear as meat or intestines crushed against a wall, caught in a painting, scattered over a floor or draped over a beam. A blood-red sun that is fed by a conveyor belt on which similarly bloody pieces are transported.
Welcome to the world of Anish Kapoor. In the city, on the Grand Canal, he displays some of his enchanting mirrors as well. Imagine, a mirror image of yourself with a background that is unexplainably turned one hundred and eighty degrees. You yourself are not turned upside down, but the world is on its head.
People who do not have any plans to go to Italy this year, can go to Middelburg for a good touch of the maestro. A mirror in thousands of triangular fragments. The work may be regarded as the flagship of Façade 2022. Look inside and admire. And whisper. And do not look too long. Just long enough to step into the real world with confidence.
Anish Kapoor (Mumbai, India, 1954) followed an art education in London. Since then he lives and works there. He made a worldwide name when he represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1990 and was distinguished with the Primio Duemila for ‘best young artist’. The following year, he won the Turner Prize, England’s most important art prize. His work has been included in museum collections of, among others, the MoMA in New York, the Tate in England and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. In the Netherlands, Museum De Pont in Tilburg has work in the permanent collection. Over the past decades, he has had solo exhibitions worldwide. Kapoor is also known for his huge sculptures in public space, such as the mirrored ‘Cloud Gate’ in Chicago. In the 18th-century Palazzo Manfrin in Venice, he has had his own museum since this year.