With the inauguration of the Deutsche Guggenheim in 1997, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank launched a unique and ambitious program of contemporary art commissions that has enabled the Guggenheim to act as a catalyst for artistic production. Anish Kapoor: Memory is the fourteenth commission project to be completed since the program’s inception and is the Guggenheim Foundation’s first collaboration with the artist, known for his expansive vision and profound aesthetics.
Anish Kapoor’s genius lies in his ability to have created a site-specific work that engages with two very different exhibition scenarios. Using Cor-Ten steel for the first time, Memory (2008) represents a new milestone in Kapoor’s career. Memory is positioned tightly within the compound of its gallery space. Its thin Cor-Ten skin, only eight millimeters thick, suggests a form that is ephemeral and unmonumental. The sculpture appears to defy gravity as it gently glances up against the peripheries of the gallery walls and ceiling, and down again to the floor. Its inaccessibility forces viewers to negotiate the work at a remove and to contemplate its ensuing fragmentation by attempting to piece together the images retained in their memories. As such, they are required to exert more effort in the act of seeing. Kapoor describes this process as creating "mental sculpture." As participants rather than as mere spectators of Memory, they become hyperconscious of their own positions in space.
Memory’s color properties relate this commission back to Kapoor’s early pigment pieces from the 1980s. Rather than necessitating a coat of paint to smooth the interior curvature, the sculpture’s seamless steel tiles, perfectly manufactured to prevent any light from seeping through, read as one continuous form. These steel tiles create the necessary conditions for darkness and boundlessness within—the void, viewable through a two-meter square aperture or window. Furthermore, Kapoor’s sculptures elicit a certain confrontation. At a weight of twenty-four tons, Memory’s raw, ineffable, and industrial exterior is absolutely foreboding.
Anish Kapoor was born in 1954 in Bombay, India. He has lived in London since the early 1970s and quickly rose to prominence in the 1980s. Best known for his explorations of “the void,” and for his use of color and scale, he has redefined contemporary sculpture since then. Kapoor has exhibited extensively both in London and internationally; his solo shows have included venues such as Kunsthalle Basel, Tate Gallery and Hayward Gallery in London, Reina Sofia in Madrid, CAPC in Bordeaux, and most recently at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston, and MAK Vienna. The Royal Academy in London will host a major solo exhibition in September 2009. Kapoor represented Britain at the XLIV Venice Biennale in 1990 when he was awarded the Premio Duemila prize. He is the recipient of the prestigious Turner Prize, awarded in 1991. He has undertaken a number of major large-scale installations and commissions, including Taratantara (Baltic, Gateshead, 1999 and Piazza Plebicito, Naples), Marsyas (Tate Modern, London, 2002), Cloud Gate (Millennium Park, Chicago, 2004), Sky Mirror (Rockefeller Center, New York, 2006) and Svayambh (Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2007).
The accompanying exhibition catalogue provides an in-depth analysis of Kapoor’s creative intellectual process, and offers glimpses into the development of Memory from the initial models to the final installations in Berlin and New York. Multidisciplinary essays authored by Henri Lustiger-Thaler, Sandhini Poddar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Steven Holl with David van der Leer, and Christopher Hornzee-Jones inscribe Memory within a broad critical framework. The publication also features a comprehensive exhibition history and bibliography on Anish Kapoor.