Anish Kapoor Railroaded By Boris Johnson Into Adding Slide To Olympic Sculpture

Sir Anish Kapoor, The Turner Prize winning artist, has disclosed his anxiety over the collaborative project, which juxtaposes the world’s longest slide, by the German artist Carsten Höller with his ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in London. He told the Guardian that the slide was “foisted” upon him by Boris Johnson, mayor of London. Carsten Höller was recently the subject of a major show at the Hayward Gallery and created a giant slide for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The sculpture which was created for the 2012 games has always resembled a fairground Helter Skelter so why not attach a slide?  The main argument is that it was not conceived in the original design and it is a distraction from the concept.  Mr Kapoor said he had only approached fellow artist Höller to design the slide after the mayor of London had stipulated that the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower needed to become more of an attraction “in order to raise revenue”.

Kapoor has revealed that he had initially been resistant to Mr Johnson’s idea, as “it felt to me as if it was turning the whole thing in the wrong direction”. He said: “It was not always my thinking. The mayor foisted this on the project and there was a moment where I had to make a decision – do I go to battle with the mayor or is there a more elegant or astute way through this? “I knew of Carsten’s work so I thought, well, who better than a fellow artist to join up with and make this a positive story rather than a negative … luckily, and thankfully, Carsten was open to it, so we found a way round this.”

Last summer Anish Kapoor’s official statement said: “I am delighted that my work, The Orbit at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the site for a collaboration with Carsten Höller.  I believe it will result in the making of a new work which will bring two works of art together in an ambitious way. “ Carsten Höller said: “I am thrilled that my tallest slide so far will cling onto Anish Kapoor’s The Orbit, taking an existing artwork as its site. A slide is a sculptural work with a pragmatic aspect; a device for experiencing an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness.”

Carsten Höller uses his training as a scientist in his work as an artist, concentrating particularly on the nature of human relationships. Born in Brussels, Belgium in 1961, he now lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden and Biriwa, Ghana. His major installations include Test Site, a series of giant slides for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (2006), Amusement Park – an installation of full-size funfair rides turning and moving at very slow speed at MASS MoCA, North Adams, USA (2006), Flying Machine (1996), a work which hoists the viewer through the air, Upside-Down Goggles, an experiment with goggles which modify vision, The Double Club (2008-2009) in London, which opened in November 2008 and closed in July 2009, took the form of a bar, restaurant and nightclub designed to create a dialogue between Congolese and Western culture. His Revolving Hotel Room, 2008, a rotating art installation which becomes a fully operational hotel room at night, was shown as part of theanyspacewhatever exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 2009. His works have been shown internationally over the last two decades, including solo exhibitions at Fondazione Prada, Milan (2000), the ICA Boston (2003), Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille (2004), Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2008), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2010), Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2011), New Museum, New York (2011) and TBA 21, Vienna (2014) and Hayward Gallery, London (2015).

Anish Kapoor is one of the most important contemporary artists working today. Perhaps most famous for public sculptures that are both adventures in form and feats of engineering, he manoeuvres between vastly different scales, across numerous series of work. Immense PVC skins, stretched or deflated; concave or convex mirrors whose reflections attract and swallow the viewer; recesses carved in stone and pigmented so as to disappear: these voids and protrusions summon up deep-felt metaphysical polarities of presence and absence, concealment and revelation. Forms turn themselves inside out, womb-like, and materials are not painted but impregnated with colour, as if to negate the idea of an outer surface, inviting the viewer to the inner reaches of the imagination. Kapoor’s geometric forms from the early 1980s, for example, rise up from the floor and appear to be made of pure pigment, while the viscous, blood-red wax sculptures from the last ten years – kinetic and self-generating – ravage their own surfaces and explode the quiet of the gallery environment. There are resonances with mythologies of the ancient world – Indian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman – and with modern times, where twentieth century events loom large.

Anish Kapoor was born in Bombay, India in 1954 and lives and works in London. He studied at Hornsey College of Art (1973–77) followed by postgraduate studies at Chelsea School of Art, London (1977–78). Recent major solo exhibitions include Château de Versailles (2015); Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Istanbul (2013); Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin (2013); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2012); Le Grand Palais, Paris (2011); Mehboob Studios, Mumbai and National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi (2010); Royal Academy of Arts (2009) and the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London (2002). He represented Britain at the 44th Venice Biennale (1990), for which he was awarded the Premio Duemila. He won the Turner Prize in 1991 and has honorary fellowships from the London Institute and Leeds University (1997), the University of Wolverhampton (1999) and the Royal Institute of British Architecture (2001). He was awarded a CBE in 2003 and a Knighthood in 2013 for services to visual arts.

The Holler slide opens to the public on 24 June, and will cost £5, on top of the £12 to get to the top of the tower, though Kapoor said he “wished it was cheaper, frankly”.

Quiz – Anish Kapoor Olympic Orbit Tower Factoid 


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