x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Indian artist Anish Kapoor creates sculpture for London Olympics

The Mumbai-born sculptor Anish Kapoor has created the Orbit tower for the summer's London Olympic Games and it looks set to become a centrepiece of the entire event.

The designers Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond.
The designers Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond.

The Mumbai-born sculptor Anish Kapoor, 58, has a lot going on. His Orbit tower, a bright red criss-crossing of beams which was commissioned by the Greater London Authority from a shortlist of proposals, promises to be a centrepiece of the forthcoming summer Olympics in London. His sets for Parsifal, Wagner's solemn opera about the quest for the Holy Grail, will premiere in Amsterdam next month. Most recently he has been in New York, where two of his massive new pieces, one made of thousands of pieces of concrete, are on display in the Barbara Gladstone Gallery.

What was the idea behind your Orbit tower?

Look, an Olympic project is kind of like a national project. Think of what the Chinese did; they had Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei build a stadium for them. Politically, they were able to use good design for their own end, to justify the modernity of the Chinese state. We may all roll our eyes, but they did it and got away with it, politically, aesthetically. They hijacked the whole thing.

How is yours different?

Cecil Balmond and I have built something that doesn't scream nationalism. It's a completely strange, awkward object with all its elbows sticking out, and it won't allow itself to be drawn into a kind of phallic emblem of nationhood. I'm amazed they let me build it, to be honest. I think it says a huge amount about Britain today, that it will take forward such an utterly odd project.

Do you collect art?

I do. I collect early Indian art very avidly. Let's say between 2,000 BC to about 500 AD. And amazingly, it's still collectable. The areas I collect in are so obtuse I don't know if anyone is really interested in them.

What about contemporary?

I'm a great fan of Sarah Lucas. Whenever I can afford one, I buy a Dan Graham, because he has worked with both architecture and mirrors for such a long time and in such a sophisticated way. I think he's hugely underrated as an artist in terms of the market.

Tell me about the piece you're doing in Amsterdam.

Parsifal is one of the great works, so grand and problematic. Especially the last act can be almost sentimental.

How much is art and how much is stage set?

When I did Pelleas and Melisande in Brussels, I made it as a kind of sculpture in which everything took place. This time, it will be more like a series of sets.

What is your favorite opera?

Bluebeard's Castle, but I don't know if I want to do a set for it.