Anish Kapoor must reconsider – Dirty Corner should be cleaned
Source:theguardian Author:Jonathan Jones Date: 2015-09-11 Size:
Anish Kapoor, it turns out, is not only a brilliant artist but a brave one. Faced with an antisemitic attack on his open-air sculpture Dirty Corner, he has chosen to defiantly leave the ugly……

‘The vandalised sculpture now looks like a graveyard’, says Kapoor, in explanation of his decision to let racism and intolerance ‘expose itself fully, in full view for all to see’.

Anish Kapoor, it turns out, is not only a brilliant artist but a brave one. Faced with an antisemitic attack on his open-air sculpture Dirty Corner, he has chosen to defiantly leave the ugly, vicious daubings as they are, to let his art bear the scars of contemporary Europe’s darkest impulses: a dirty corner indeed, stained by racism and ignorance.

It is the second time this sensual, suggestive work of art has been vandalised – and of course there’s a very laudable political logic in Kapoor’s decision to let the rancid markings stay. “The vandalised sculpture now looks like a graveyard,” he says, in explanation of his decision to let racism and intolerance “expose itself fully, in full view for all to see”.

So an ambitiously organic, ripely coloured and textured, overflowing and tumultuous addition to the classical landscape of Louis XIV’s palace has now become something else, a damaged mirror in which France can see the bigoted face of its minority of “cultural fascists”, not to mention the strange ideology and prejudices of people who are monarchists in a country that has been a republic since 1848.

But it’s not fair to Kapoor’s beautiful work of art to let it be wrecked, however noble the cause of fighting racism. This is about the kind of artist Anish Kapoor is. Clearly he is prepared to be combative when he needs to be. In recent years his public art has become increasingly controversial. Its sheer scale and exuberance invites criticism – not everyone understands his crazy blood-red London Olympic folly the Orbit, though it has not attracted anything like the attacks that have been inflicted on Dirty Corner. Kapoor’s forays into controversy have in fact rescued him from almost stultifying levels of establishment acclaim. But this is getting silly. His art is not aggressive or straightforwardly political. It is on the contrary spiritual, sublime, contemplative and richly aesthetic, and it deserves to be enjoyed as such.

His art bears the scars of Europe’s darkest impulses: a dirty corner indeed, stained by racism and ignorance

Anish Kapoor is not Banksy. His art is not some simplistic “statement”. It does not “make you think” so much as make you feel. He is a sensualist – and I am not necessarily talking about vaginas. Maybe Dirty Corner is vaginal, maybe not, but like all his work since he first became well-known in the 1980s, it is a masterpiece of chromatic and spatial poetry. Kapoor is one of the two greatest colourists alive – the other is the American light artist James Turrell, and his real genius – that’s not too strong a word – is to use colour and light, shade and shadow and the darkness of voids and recesses to create expansive, moving, sometimes utterly disorientating artistic experiences.

To experience a work by this artist is to be seduced by deep reds or cosmic blues, to get confused between reality and illusion – what looks like a blue surface may turn out to be a deep void – and to be enriched and inspired by a deep, dark, bloody sense of the human interior or the shimmering infinity of the cosmos. Vile graffiti adds nothing to that experience – but it can destroy it.

The vandals are idiots who – even in the most culturally conservative terms – have picked the wrong target. There is plenty of art around that is vulgar, and that would make a mockery of Versailles. Kapoor, however, is one of the most genuinely gifted, aesthetically rewarding, talented and imaginative artists of our time – one of the few whose work is guaranteed to be admired a century from now.

Richard Serra’s sculpture The matter of Time at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Public art often gets scarred by battles over its meaning or even its right to exist. Rachel Whiteread’s House – a concrete cast of the interior of an east London house and the best sculpture created by the “young British art” generation in the 1990s – got the words “Wot for?” written on it. They remained. But clever postmodern theories of meaning aside, it is a brute tragedy with no redeeming features that philistine attitudes of the kind expressed by that graffitist led to House being demolished, and Britain losing a great work of art.

When artists get embroiled in arguments about public sculpture, it is tempting and perhaps reassuring for them to see the art itself as a political manifesto. Thus the American sculptor Richard Serra got into a dispute with cultural conservatives who loathed – and eventually demolished – his sculpture Tilted Arc. But in the end, the controversy over this massive steel abstract monument in Manhattan in the 1980s is one for the history books, an academic talking point to be gone over by PhD students. It is dull and insignificant set beside the living, awe-inspiring, thrilling power of Serra’s surviving masterpieces, like his permanent installation in the Bilbao Guggenheim.

Kapoor should reconsider. He is giving bigots the oxygen of publicity and letting them ruin a beautiful work of art. Dirty Corner deserves to be cleaned and properly protected by the French police. That would be the true victory for culture over barbarism. Even better, make it a permanent addition to Versailles. It is lovely enough.

[Editor] 张艳

    Artintern