Set in the Palladian splendour of Houghton Hall in north Norfolk, Anish Kapoor’s exhibition showcases 24 sculptures and drawings spanning his 40-year career. These works highlight the artist’s interest in combining the organic with the engineered, the raw material and the highly polished. There is a nod to the surreal in everything Kapoor makes, and the works in this exhibition explore the strangeness of his oeuvre against the backdrop of an 18th-century English country house.
Anish Kapoor. Rectangle Within a Rectangle, 2018. Granite. Installation view, Houghton Hall, 2020. Photo: Martin Kennedy.
In the gardens of Houghton Hall, Kapoor’s dark granite stones stand as striking monoliths, while pink onyx, carved into soft folding forms, evokes the intimate fleshy regions of the female body.
Anish Kapoor. Liver, 2001. Marble. Installation view, Houghton Hall, 2020. Photo: Martin Kennedy.
In the house, nestled among opulent mouldings and neoclassical cornices, Kapoor’s coloured concave disks reflect the world quite literally turned upside down. They combine the modern (or perhaps the futuristic) with fussy Georgian decor in a disorienting juxtaposition reminiscent of the final scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Anish Kapoor. Cobalt Blue to Apple and Magenta mix 2, 2018; Spanish and Pagan Gold to Magenta, 2018; Garnet to Apple Red mix 2 to Pagan Gold to Spanish Gold, 2018; Spanish Gold and Pagan Gold mix, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery. © Anish Kapoor. All rights reserved DACS, 2020. Photo: Pete Huggins.
At five metres in diameter, the most striking work in this exhibition is Sky Mirror (2018). A concave mirror of stainless steel, it has been placed in the centre of Houghton Hall’s expansive lawns, pointing to the heavens, so that the shifting clouds above seem trapped in a terrestrial orb. It seems almost like magic, encouraging us to see the world anew, to look skywards with a fresh sense of wonder.
This exhibition was scheduled to open in March, but was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It finally opened on 12 July to long queues. Tickets must be purchased in advance and visitors are asked to maintain social distancing. That this exhibition has opened as the British public begins to emerge from more than 12 weeks of lockdown seems fitting. After months of staying at home, we have come to appreciate outdoor spaces as never before. And Kapoor’s mirrors, which turn the world on its head, undoubtedly provide a fitting metaphor for these strange times.
Houghton Hall, Norfolk
12 July – 1 November 2020
Words by EMILY SPICER
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY