Visitors to Versailles Palace this summer will be greeted by a new exhibition of sculptures by the British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor. From June to October, six of his works are on view in the Jeu de Paume room in Versailles and the gardens, where they are already sparking debate. This is because one of his creations is a 197 foot long tunnel of steel symbolizing “the vagina of the queen who takes power”. Some say the piece is a disfigurement to history, however it has nothing to do with Marie Antoinette. In fact, it was first realized in 2011 for the Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan. Kapoor’s bravado should come as no surprise. Known for his bold and large scale works, he is perhaps most recognized for his “Cloud Gate” in Chicago’s Millennium Park and “Sky Mirror,” exhibited at the Rockefeller Center in New York. Reinterpreted here, they are ambitious manipulations of form using reflective surfaces to being evocative of flesh and blood.
Anish Kapoor’s “Dirty Corner” in the gardens of Versailles.
“Dirty Corner” as it appeared in 2001 at the Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan.
Each piece in the exhibition signifies a particular material or phase of Kapoor’s art, which he admits can be problematic. The “vagina” makes its home in the “Dirty Corner” of the gardens, which is less dirty than it is a place of illusions. The gardens also host his mystifying installation of a perpetual black-colored whirlpool, “Decension” (2014). It represents Kapoor’s interest in our perceptions of spaces and, paradoxically, empty voids that are full of mystery and darkness. As one ascends up the steps to the Bassin de Lattone, there are site-specfic versions of “Sky Mirror” and “C Curve” (2009), which invert everything that they reflect and literally turn the grounds upside down. Inside, Kapoor’s “Shooting into a Corner” (2009), is also garnering attention for its grisly scene of a canon firing blood red wax against a wall and splattering onto cylindrical blocks. Nearly every sculpture selected for the exhibition is bodily and physical, and set against these 17th century landmarks, have an even more dramatic presence.