Anish Kapoor - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Anish Kapoor, 'Sky Mirror', Lot 35

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 February

  • Provenance

    Galleria Minini, Brescia
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mapping the sky’s meandering lights, its fluidity and seemingly infinite expanse, Sky Mirror, 2014, is an exquisite example of Anish Kapoor’s eponymous Sky Mirror series, consisting of large concave mirrors facing upwards and placed outdoors. A variation of Kapoor’s earlier and ongoing Voids – sculptures that induce vertigos in their illusory depth – the artist’s Sky Mirrors similarly warp the viewer’s perception of surrounding space, tricking them into thinking that the sky is tumbling down to terrestrial realms. Kapoor began working on his perspective-shifting sculptures in the mid-1990s, with a broader series of concave works tackling notions of reflection and distortion; yet it is with his outdoor formulations that he truly began incorporating nature into his work. Forming part of the artist’s ongoing investigation of space, Sky Mirror is a reflection of its materialisation en plein air; it meditates on permeable physicality, while at the same time offering an echo to the changing of seasons, the transition from day to night, the slightest of alterations in a light’s phosphorescence. As a result, the work is perpetually in process, losing its material form as it dissolves into its surroundings. Like a nameless chameleon, ‘it literally ceases to be physical; it levitates; it does something else [that] is, in my view, completely beguiling’ (Anish Kapoor, quoted in Nicholas Baume, Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future, exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2008, p. 53).

    Held in lingering tension between unmissable presence and resounding absence, Sky Mirror poignantly captures Kapoor’s desire to achieve paradoxical phenomenology, whereby objects are at once there and not there. In its numerous public iterations that include Rockefeller Center, New York, in 2006, Kensington Gardens, London, in 2010-11, Versailles, France, in 2015, and the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, in 2010, the Sky Mirror works have repeatedly demonstrated a striking dual quality, at once mirroring the skies hanging above their various grounds, and living as monumental, charismatic objects in their own right, akin to seminal art-historical mirrors. Epitomised by Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage, 1434, and the small mirror discreetly reflecting the portrayed scene at the back of the composition, the symbolic object additionally relates to James Turrell’s mission to capture natural light, resulting in an amalgamous sculpture often perceived by viewers as both discreet and boisterous – like a flamboyant intruder in a familiar place. ‘A lot of the works are about passage, about a kind of a passing through’, the artist has mused. ‘The idea of place has always been very important to the work. A place that is in a sense original. I mean, by the word original, to do with “first”, and I think that is to do with centring oneself – allowing a thing to occur specifically rather than in general […] and that necessitates a place’ (Anish Kapoor, quoted in William Furlong, ‘Anish Kapoor’, Audio Arts Magazine, vol. 10, no. 4, 1990, reproduced online).

    Each time made in slightly varying dimensions, the Sky Mirrors are conceived to best suit their environments, as well as coexist peacefully with the human presence that surrounds them. In this perspective, they aptly respond to the necessities of their in situ status, whereby their existence as structures is supported by the space in which they live, and the subtleties that differentiate that space from any other. At Versailles, the Sky Mirror was able to reflect different perspectives of a portion of the sky, historically shared by French royals and international visitors alike. In one’s own chosen environment, the work carries out its self-fulfilling mission in a more intimate fashion, all the while continuing Kapoor’s intention to emphasise, symbolise, and actualise existing space. In any new territory, Sky Mirror activates the physical terrain that exists around it, while at the same time bringing crucial attention to what is held above – a capacity that appears to have become increasingly rare, in a world dominated by earthly, eye-level distractions.

    In this perspective, Sky Mirror falls within Kapoor’s chosen realm of spirituality, moving beyond its mere physical countenance. It sits on the ground, yet looks towards the sky, and therefore signifies the potential for humans to equally set their sights above. Pulling the sky down to the earth in a sublime union of elemental forces, the sculpture presents a proposition about space that is a central enquiry in Kapoor’s work, and that transcends one’s earthly groundings. The numinous dimension should be self-fulfilling, Kapoor specifies: ‘Just as you can’t set out to make something beautiful, you can’t set out to make something spiritual. What you can do is recognise that it may be there. It normally has something to do with not having too much to say. There seems to be space for the viewer, and is sometimes something we identify as being spiritual. And it is all about space’ (Anish Kapoor, quoted in Nadia Slejskova, ‘The Year of Anish Kapoor’, ArtFrame, 27 March 2011, online).

    To produce the effect they set out to achieve, the Sky Mirrors must furthermore attend to Kapoor’s strict and rigorous aesthetic requirements. With regards to his stainless steel sculptures, Sandhini Poddar has commented, ‘In erasing the edge and collapsing the horizon, Kapoor’s stainless steel sculptures [...] shatter and scatter the omnipotence of the gaze’ (Sandhini Poddar, ‘Suspending Disbelief: Anish Kapoor’s Mental Sculpture’, Anish Kapoor: Memory, Berlin, 2009, p. 47). This phenomenon of disappearance seems only feasible in the event of an entirely polished surface, immaculately smooth so as to let all elements glide into its landscape organically. In this way, the concave mirrored structure is but a blank canvas on which the sky – as paint – can come settle to create an ever-shifting composition; the present work is an exquisite example of this, synthetically perfect in form and thus morphing with its surroundings.

    In all its paradoxically harmonious contradictions, Sky Mirror wonderfully exemplifies Kapoor’s capacity to provoke existential thought and dreamlike visions. Its scale feels grand enough to encapsulate and engulf what has before been deemed ungraspable, unfathomable, grand beyond reach: the vastness of the sky itself.


Sky Mirror

stainless steel
260 x 260 cm (102 3/8 x 102 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2014.

£800,000 - 1,200,000 ‡ ♠

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099
[email protected]


Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 February 2020