When Anish was sixteen, he and Roy were sent to Israel to live on a kibbutz. Anish’s job was to take care of the community ducks. “We were still – really – innocent, naive Indian boys,” he recalls. In India, the two brothers’ Jewish identity marked them as outsiders. In Israel, the Anish discovered that their Indian heritage made them not Jewish enough. In the streets of Tel Aviv they were subjected to racist chants. While in Israel, Anish suffered what he later recognized as a nervous breakdown. “I’ve become completely dysfunctional,” he told me. Roy, now an executive at a tech company in Toronto, told me, “We were walking down the street, and he was saying he didn’t know what was real and what was not. He would stare around, shiver, and start crying.” It was then that Kapoor first went into psychoanalysis. (He now has weekly sessions instead of daily sessions.) But he also received help from other sources. “I had an aunt who lived in Israel, and she had these strange shamanic tendencies,” he recalls. When Kapoor’s mother went to Israel to visit her sons, the aunt ordered her, “Go back to India and get some dirt, come back, and put it under Anish’s bed.” Kapoor told me, “I could cry, frankly—my mom, bless her, and I went to India, got some dirt, and put it under my bed. And somehow, it’s that ritual stuff I’ve been working with ever since.”
Kapoor’s parents had hoped that he would study to become an engineer in Israel. Instead, he decides to become an artist, rents a studio and begins painting portraits. When he applied to Bezalel, the famous art school in Jerusalem, he was rejected and left the country in 1973, before the Yom Kippur War. Kapoor wandered across Europe, stopping in Monaco, where his parents moved to work with his father. “The police stopped me for being black and with long hair every five minutes – I’m sorry, but that’s just a fact,” he told me in the principality. (A few years ago, he returned to Monaco to receive the homage, and took the opportunity to report to Prince Albert II of the long-running inconveniences.) Kapoor ended up in London, where he attended Hornsey College of Art—an environment that was an idealist and a radical leftist. “The artists would hang out, get stoned, chill out, go to the bar, go to the studio,” Kapoor recalls. “It was a completely different atmosphere, in terms of what it means to do something in the world. It wasn’t a job. It was a job. It was something you filled your life with.” London was increasingly cheap and cosmopolitan. Kapoor rented a studio for five pounds a month and made money at Camden Lock Market by selling jewelry made from spoons and forks.
Kapoor envisioned himself as having a modest and bohemian presence, but this plan was undermined by his increasing monetary and commercial growth. In the late 1970s, he began sculpting intricate, vibrant shapes that seemed to be made entirely from piles of brightly colored pigment. The series “1000 Names” was inspired in part by Kapoor’s first visit to return to India, a decade after his departure; The colors and textures of the sculptures evoked the bags of pigment sold in Mumbai markets for ritual use, and their powdery edges were formally innovative, raising questions about the boundaries between painting and sculpture. During Kapoor’s career, his dye jobs sometimes raised other questions: Once, on his way to a show in Sicily, he was briefly detained by airport security guards, suspecting him of claiming that bags of white powder in his suitcases were paint. .
In 1982 he was hired for the influential Leeson Gallery, which already represented many British sculptors of his generation, including Tony Cragg and Richard Deacon. Like them, business kapoors are often made from common materials, such as styrofoam and wood. But his use of tincture powder was special. Nicholas Logsdale, the gallery’s founder, told me, “The model wasn’t necessarily that original, but the way he used the model was. His use of dye colors, this informal way of letting them fall to the floor, rather than making them neat and tidy—I thought this could be Kind of a historical technical breakthrough.” In 1984, a display of dye work sold out at the Gladstone Gallery in Manhattan prior to its opening. John Russell, who reviewed the show for times, He noted that Kapoor “has something of his native country in his use of deep and brilliant colours”, adding, “mustard yellow, Yves Klein blue, bright, sharp red and luxurious black are at once reminiscent of a country where color comes as pigment rather than from a tube.”
Critical reception of Kapoor’s work has often focused on his Indian predecessors, sometimes paying less attention to other aspects of his artistic inheritance. Homey K told me. Bhabha, a Harvard professor and critical theorist, who has been a close friend of Kapoor for decades, said, “In the 1980s and 1990s, there was an obsession—a kind of cultural concern—to put a name and a place for the creativity of a postcolonial artist in the diaspora by emphasizing the authenticity of his cultural origin. Anish’s work is given a superior mystical and mythological reading that does not react to worldly tensions that call for attention.” Bhabha continued that postcolonial and diaspora artists have a global origin rather than a national identity: “They are in dialogue with Western art and artists while also in deep dialogue with arts and artists across the postcolonial global south.”
Kapoor told me he “refused to accept that I am an ‘Indian artist,'” and went on: “In the age of the individual, creative potential is ascribed to background culture. And you rob the individual of his creative contribution.” His relationship with his native land was further complicated by the rise of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, whom Kapoor had been constantly critical of. Last year, he wrote in guardian That Modi’s regime “carries a comparison with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, who also tried to rule with ideological zeal,” adding: “The fascist government in India today is doing what the British could not do. Modi and his neo-colonialists are forcing Hindus to exclusivize the country.” Kapoor is not fond of the outgoing British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who sees his politics as part of a frustrating global trend to the right. (When Johnson was mayor of London, Kapoor expressed his displeasure with him after Johnson ordered a slide to be built on the frame of the Arcelor Mittal Tower, in order to make it a more attractive tourist attraction.)
“You look at Brazil and India over and over – the first thing they go to is culture,” Kapoor told me. “Because they don’t want free thinking and open conversation and because images matter. It’s sad to see Britain going in that direction.” Kapoor has used his fame in England to criticize everything from Brexit to the British government’s treatment of Shamima Begum – a British-born woman who was stripped of her citizenship in 2019, four years after she decided, at the age of 15, to leave London to join Problems fighters in Syria. Now living in a refugee camp in northern Syria, Begum has given birth and lost three children. “This is a sad young woman who has been effectively trafficked,” Kapoor told me. “Imagine that the government can arbitrarily revoke your citizenship, if you have enough to get citizenship elsewhere, because you are speaking against it. They can do the same to me frankly tomorrow.”
Kapoor’s pigment sculptures were the beginning of his efforts to push materials to unexpected extremes that seem to defy reality. “It is said that what you see is what you get, and I think art is just the opposite,” Kapoor once told curator Nicholas Baum. “For me, illusion is more poetically true than ‘realistic.’” Greg Hilty, gallery director of Lyson Gallery, told me, “There is something about the Wizard of Oz—Anish has never been afraid of fantasy and theater.”
Over the years, the materials that Kapoor has access to and the transformative methods available to him have become more complex and extreme. He hired workers at a shipyard in the Netherlands to manufacture the “Hive,” a giant curved sculpture made of Corten steel. For ‘Svayambhu’ – a Sanskrit word meaning ‘self-generating’ – Kapoor laid a huge motor-powered block of blood-colored wax on a path that passed through three similarly sized entrances; The block of wax was pressed through the inlets and scattered, indicating that it was “carved” into the shape as it moved back and forth. At an online roundtable last year, Nigel Schofield of MDM Props, the manufacturer who helped Kapoor make the work, said of the wax vehicle, “There is Train Under that, you need engineering skills.”