“A single object, a single form, a single color,” is how Anish Kapoor succinctly describes Leviathan, his latest sculpture that is on show at the Grand Palais, Paris, as part of the annual Monumenta exhibition. And monumental it is. Covering 13,500sqm of space, at a height of 35m, and weighing 18 tonnes, the PVC structure is Kapoor’s largest work to date and fills the vast proportions of the Grand Palais, seemingly bursting out of the front door. It took a week to build and is supported by both a steel chassis, as well as air, which is constantly piped through the work.

The gigantic structure appears as a biomorphic form, composed of sphere-like sections. But it is more than its spectacular exterior and Kapoor worked to create a “cathedral-like” chamber inside, which is where viewers first arrive. This interior section is bathed in moody light and will be the scene of several music concerts and talks that will make the most of its unusual acoustics.

While the spherical shape and intervention with light is typical of the Indian-born British sculptor’s work, Kapoor has cited Stanley Kubrick as part of his inspiration for Leviathan. “It will, I hope, be a contemplative and poetic experience,” he says. And though its is larger than any of his previous structures (it will soon be superseded by the scale of his Orbit tower, which is under construction in London), Kapoor notes that Leviathan sits comfortably within his body of work, which he says is intended, “To mange, through strictly physical means, to offer a completely new emotional and philosophical experience.”


A foreword by Anish Kapoor:
“The Grand Palais is one of those remarkable spaces in the world, a vast volume full of light,
and has its own beauty. To make a work in it, one has to deal with all of that, especially the
light. I want the viewer to have a moment of shock, aesthetically but also physically, so that
when you enter the Nave you raise your eyes and say: ‘Wow! Could it be like that!”

Creating in the nave of the Grand Palais:
“It is a building of extraordinary scale. The difficulty of the space is its scale - when you are
inside and enclosed, it’s almost bigger than being outside! Somehow one has to deal with
this volume, which is both horizontal and vertical. The verticality is the problem, and the light
is what makes the verticality a challenge.”

His ambition:
“Hopefully we will be able to make something truly compelling. I know already what I am
going to do at the Grand Palais, and the ambition is to make a work of significant scale, that
we can bring back together with the building and give something that is both contemplative,
being slow and thoughtful, and has some sense of a real awe about it!”

Vision, body and memory:
“I think there is no such thing as an innocent viewer. All viewing, all looking comes with
complications, comes with previous histories, a more or less real past. Abstract art and
sculpture in particular, has to deal with this idea that the viewer comes with his body, and of
course memory. Memory and body come together in the act of looking. I’m really interested
in what happens to meaning in that process: as memory and body walk through, take the
passage through any given work, something happens, something changes.”

Architecture:
“The proposal for MONUMENTA, for me, has again to do with architecture. The work is
attempting to make this big space into two sequential experiences, a kind of inside and a
kind of outside, of course both within the building. That seems to complicate the openness
of the space, as it is given at the moment.”

An all-encompassing monochrome:
“Colour will play a big role in MONUMENTA 2011. What I want to do is to make the experience of the viewer some kind of an all-encompassing monochrome. Drenching the viewer in colour. Now, I am not going to say now what colour it will be, even though I know where I’m going, but it is an important part of the process.”

Paris:
“The most beautiful city in the world... I have a special history with it, in that my first ever
exhibition as a very young artist, some thirty years ago, was here. So it is a particular connection for me: in the intervening thirty years, I have done very few things in Paris – in a curious way, this is a kind of return.”

Leviathan:
“For me, this huge archaic force is linked to darkness. It is a monster burdened with its
corpse, which stands guard some forgotten regions of our conscience.”

More info:

Monumenta runs from May 12 to June 23 at Grand Palais, Paris
www.monumenta.com