They have been years in the making and sparked an art world spat. But we will at last see the sculptures Anish Kapoor has made using the “world’s blackest black” in this expansive two-venue retrospective.
It’s not surprising that Kapoor was attracted to the wonder material Vantablack, which was created by UK-based company Surrey NanoSystems. In work going back to the 1990s, Kapoor has experimented with the possibilities of deep, pure colour, from void-like black holes in the floor to walk-in cocoons of rich red. The properties of Vantablack—a coating that uses a forest of tiny carbon tubes to absorb nearly all the light shining on it, thus making it hard to discern shape—are tailor-made for Kapoor’s interests.
The problems came when Kapoor gained exclusive rights to use the coating in works of art. Other artists have decried this monopoly—most notably Stuart Semple, who hit back with a range of paints including the “pinkest pink” that are available to buy by anyone who affirms they are not Anish Kapoor. (Kapoor managed to acquire a pot nonetheless and posted a picture of his pink-painted middle finger on Instagram.)
Kapoor is the first British artist to be given an exhibition in the Accademia, Venice’s venerable gallery of Old Master paintings. The show will also take place in Palazzo Manfrin close to Venice’s train station, in the Cannaregio district on the other side of the city. The Anish Kapoor Foundation began converting the dilapidated 18th-century mansion last year, and it will eventually become the foundation’s headquarters, with an exhibition venue, artist studio and a repository for some of his most important works. The location is fitting—the palazzo was once a popular picture gallery visited by Lord Bryon and Édouard Manet. Many of its paintings are now in the collection of the Accademia.
Dialogue with the past
Alongside Kapoor’s black works, the exhibition will reflect key moments in the artist’s career, as well as recent paintings and sculptures. It is curated by the director of the Rijksmuseum, Taco Dibbits, who curated an exhibition of Kapoor’s work alongside Rembrandt’s at the Amsterdam museum in 2015. Dibbits says: “All artists, however cutting edge and contemporary, are in debate with those who have gone before. The Gallerie dell’Accademia is the perfect site for a modern master to explore the themes that have always engaged sculptors and painters. Kapoor’s latest works, using the most advanced nanotechnology, promise to be a revelation.”
• Anish Kapoor, Gallerie dell'Accademia and Palazzo Manfrin, 20 April-9 October